Preparing for Retirement

How can radiologists plan for the shift from full-time employment to a post-practice lifestyle?

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Successfully planning for retirement includes being psychologically ready to let go of one’s full-time work routine while creating a meaningful and enjoyable new lifestyle. Most radiologists hold demanding positions consisting of intellectual stimulation through scientific and technological advancements paired with emotionally rewarding interactions with patients and colleagues. This translates into a radiologist’s identity being tightly connected with his or her status as a working physician. So how can radiologists successfully move from full-time work to retirement?

“I think the best way is to wind down gradually by working 60 percent or 40 percent of full-time for a couple of years,” says David C. Levin, MD, FACR, professor emeritus of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. “Too abrupt a transition to complete retirement could leave one feeling rootless and depressed.”

Catherine J. Everett, MD, MBA, FACR, chair of the ACR Senior and/or Retired Section and a diagnostic radiologist at Coastal Radiology in New Bern, N.C., agrees. “All radiologists, young or old, need to make sure there is something in their group contract from the beginning that addresses that transition,” she says.

According to Everett, there are several pathways to winding down toward retirement. “You can work the same kind of schedule including nights and weekends and simply cut back on time — in other words, just work three-quarter time or half-time,” Everett suggests. She also points out that radiologists will need to plan for the associated drop in income. Another option, notes Everett, is to do administrative work for your group. “I know radiologists who have stayed in medicine by doing administrative work for hospitals they had done prior work for,” she says. Everett provides examples such as serving as chief medical officer or consulting for projects needing imaging expertise or clinical decision support.

Both Everett and Levin note that for radiologists who have enjoyed a successful and demanding profession, focusing only on leisure pursuits is often unfulfilling. According to Levin, one option for retirement is to incorporate volunteerism that includes the transferable skills that individuals enjoyed using during employment. “Radiologists could volunteer for national radiology organizations like the ACR, RSNA, or one of the subspecialty societies,” says Levin. “I think these societies would be smart to tap retired radiologists to get more involved. These organizations often need major time commitments from their officers. Full-time, actively practicing radiologists don’t have that time, but retired radiologists do — and they have the experience of all those years in the field.”

Everett advocates for volunteering overseas as a way for retired radiologists to keep up their skills and see the world. “Several well-respected residency and volunteer radiology programs offer opportunities like these and they welcome seasoned radiologists to join them,” Everett says.

Everett and Levin provide themselves as real-life examples of radiologists currently navigating the transition to retirement. Levin believes the best way to stay engaged post-retirement is to keep active physically and mentally. “After having chaired the department of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Jefferson Medical College for 16 years, I remain on the faculty doing health services research,” says Levin. “There are many productive things retired radiologists can do, such as research, writing, volunteering at hospitals, and serving on company boards or advisory committees.”

Everett, who plans on retiring in two years, believes that when radiologists are ready to retire, they need to come up with activities and things they would like to learn. Everett has started a list that includes learning to blow glass, playing a new instrument, improving her gardening skills, and taking architectural courses. “I want to make sure I keep using my brain,” Everett says. “Your time is yours, so use it wisely.”

By Lori A. Burkhart, JD, freelance writer, ACR Press

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