I think it would be challenging to go from full-on emergency medicine straight to retirement, and a staged approach is a good idea.
I went from full-time emergency medicine to part-time emergency medicine and part time rural practice, then to part-time rural practice, then to retirement.
This worked well, and it gave me time to develop my other interests. Having a plan and lots of outside interests is essential.
Over the course of my career, as I have aged and my interests changed, I have tried new challenges.
In my younger days, I loved full-time EM – the trauma, the resuscitations, and flying around in helicopters doing retrieval medicine. This evolved into retrieval coordination more than actual flying, and I also spent time teaching.
I spent three winters in Antarctica – another totally different challenge – and on my return I decided that rural and remote medicine was an area of interest. I did the FACRRM and moved more into the rural space.
As I have grown older, I enjoy the care I can give in a rural town, doing inpatient care, aged care and palliative care, as well as the usual general practice. There is still all the variety I enjoy, a few emergencies thrown in and a satisfying connection with the local community.
One of the main reasons I left EM was because of access block and feeling like people were getting herded through the department without the level of care I wanted to give. Moving across to rural practice has enabled me to practice a more humane medicine, where we control the inpatient beds, can do "social admissions", know the backgrounds of the people we treat, and end-of-life care is something we deal with before the crisis happens.
Also, I have always been involved with organisations such as the AMA and Rural Doctors Association, and I enjoy trying to improve the medical care people are able to receive, especially in rural areas. That has been great to be involved with – despite the need to interact with politicians on a regular basis.
I think it is important to give something back and volunteering in this capacity for me is an area where I feel I can make a difference.
Now that I am fully retired, I look forward to being able to get together with the other retired FACEMS. I have been contacted by other retired FACEMs in my state, who meet up for coffee every couple of months. It would be a great idea for the College to facilitate these types of meetings.
The biggest benefits to staying connected with peers and retired Fellows during retirement is the chance to talk to others in a similar position about the challenges of retirement, or perhaps just talk about the "Good Old Days" of emergency medicine before bed block (yes, I can remember that!) and when retrievals, for me, meant jumping in the back of a chopper borrowed from the local mine with an oxylog and a Thomas Pack.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my career. I have always enjoyed patient contact in whatever form. I loved emergency medicine and enjoyed the daily challenges of managing undifferentiated patients. My transition to rural medicine had many of the same challenges. Simultaneously, I am looking forward to a transition to total retirement from clinical work and enjoying the rural lifestyle many of my patients have enjoyed.
I am currently having a new off-grid house built on 15 acres, where I have already established an orchard, veggie patch, and areas for breeding pigs, chickens and a few sheep. This is situated on the bay in Dover overlooking the ocean, and it has easy access to the water for kayaking and fishing, as well of lots of local bushwalks.
So I have plenty to do in my retirement and I look forward to enjoying the simple pleasures. After a lifetime of having to be available, carry a pager or phone and disappear in the middle of meals and family events, I look forward to not being on call.