As head of department, you have several senior faculty members who are reaching the age when retirement may be an issue. Unfortunately, these colleagues don’t seem to have any plans and some seem resistant to the idea of retiring. How do you manage the need for retirement, while respecting your senior faculty?

In most jurisdictions, mandatory retirement is no longer permitted. Thus, some individuals need to be encouraged to move aside at “retirement” age. This is an important topic, but I am not sure I have much to write. Therefore, what follows is a general, albeit brief, approach.

The first step in this process is to introduce the topic of retirement early, usually at age 60. Many clinicians never seem to confront the reality of retirement (or even of impending old age). In my experience, the first introduction of the topic is met with shock. One way to respond to shock is by saying “I’m just introducing the possibility”. Generally, it takes up to five annual conversations to land on a projected age or date of retirement. Second, a major issue is that many staff haven’t thought through any alternatives to clinical practice. Therefore, it may be useful to explore alternative roles for retiring staff such as administrative roles, teaching, mentorship, and/or international care. Third, you need to think about incentives to move on. For example, maintaining a full allocation of on-call for all staff, including senior staff, is often an incentive to retire. Thus, relinquishment of on-call may be used as a trigger for setting the date for retirement. Also, regular feedback of competence and productivity (along with everyone else) may shift the individual towards retirement. Finally, appropriate celebration of a career and recognition of accomplishments are critical to a successful transition. Begin to plan for retirement celebration, as planning the date may help set a retirement date.

One area that can be easily forgotten is the adjustment of an individual into retirement or out of a leadership role. Despite best attempts, most physicians feel the loss of their professional identity and/or the loss of influence as a senior leader. These physicians need to be supported on a regular basis. One strategy is to encourage ex-leaders and retired physicians to create groups to mutually support and share experiences. No matter what the situation, sharing experiences with others in the same situation helps.

In conclusion, while mandatory retirement is largely impossible, planning early can usually lead to retirement at an appropriate time.

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