Residency is a time of excitement, optimism, ideas for the future and connection, a time when we contemplate change and potential possibilities. My residency class consisted of eight incredible individuals, two females and six males.
We had people from all stages of life: single and married, some in their second careers, others practically fresh from the womb. Some were closer friends than others, but we all went through the hardships of residency together in the ED pit, conferences, and occasional retreats. We all ended up graduating and becoming emergency physicians, bound by this identity, attending conferences, receiving Emergency Medicine Newsand realizing that our experiences were quite similar, although we may not have been able to share those experiences with other physicians.
Today, almost 13 years later, only four of those eight people are still working in the emergency room. Only 50% continued the career they spent four years (or 12 years, depending on your perspective) of their life, time and energy doing for very little pay. The problem here is that it doesn’t surprise anyone at ED. We predict that many, if not most, EPs will retire within 10-20 years of being in the trenches, but this retirement is not like that of Silicon Valley billionaires. We are not retiring and going to play golf. We’re retiring from ED, not work. Many continue to stay in the medical field simply because they enjoy the work of medicine and carry the title of doctor.
I haven’t seen any retirement articles that reference a retirement community. Many talk about exit plans and strategies. Many before me left with a sort of bon voyage party. Many continued to socialize with those they knew from their work days. But no organizational attempt was made to keep these doctors involved in our dysfunctional but cohesive family. The COVID years have taught me that community, socializing, and feeling part of something, as opposed to outside of something, plays a huge role in our happiness.
A wake up call
The American College of Emergency Physicians, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, and American Board of Emergency Medicine now offer retired status. (https://bit.ly/3sIA13r; https://bit.ly/350U05G; https://bit.ly/35hNTtw.) The photo accompanying the CAPE retirement web page shows older EPs, but a better reflection of reality would be doctors in their 40s and 50s pivoting and figuring out their own paths.
We need a space where starting your own medical business could be a discussion based on what we actually know: ED. We need to learn to bring the lessons learned from ED to our new ventures, a space where we can help each other while reconnecting with friends. We need a place where we can talk about money without being held to other specialty standards, where we can create and carve out specialties (what EPs actually do when they retire or move away of ED) while earning a higher income and having a better lifestyle.
While my EM career began its descent overnight and my Cannabis career in medicine comes out of the shadows, I wonder how we do it? How can we, as a 50% collective in our 40s and 50s, create a community and collaborative organization fueled by our pivots in medicine, to support others who inevitably end up in the same place, either by preference or by exhaustion? I would love to hear your suggestions.