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Positive mental health and fulfilling retirement major themes at second annual Physician Wellness Day

Alan Roadburg wants physicians to rethink life after medicine.

“Retirement is a career. It’s not a phase or a stage. It’s the combination of your work life and your leisure life,” he says.

But like a career, it’s best to know what you’re good at and what ultimately makes you happy, he says. Roadburg is on a mission to help doctors, and professionals of all types, prepare for all the “other side,’ also known as the non-financial aspects of retirement. Many of us plan for our financial health after our primary working years but don’t give considered thought to what we will do and how we will spend our time.

But we should, consider our futures, says Roadburg. And he has a plan.

So that’s why he was tapped to bring his research-backed wisdom and advice to Winnipeg May 12 for Doctors Manitoba’s second annual Physician Wellness Day. The day-long event was held at the Qualico Family Centre inside Assiniboine Park. (A roster of featured speakers were set to tackle financial health in retirement, and physician burn out and depression, among other topics.)

Roadburg is a Toronto-based sociologist and PhD. He also wrote Life after Medicine, The Physician’s Guide to the Decision to Retire and Retirement Happiness.
A former academic at Dalhousie University, Roadburg also created the 2nd Career Retirement Program, a workshop program to guide doctors, and other professionals, into a retirement with purpose, satisfaction, and joy.

Roadburg’s message is simple. No matter what your profession, a common theme emerges about retirement.

People want to find something meaningful to do after retiring, says Roadburg, in conversation a week before his Winnipeg visit. For doctors, it’s fairly easy to find work in the profession and continue practicing medicine part time even after giving up their practice. But Roadburg says doctors should evaluate the push and pull of retirement before they decide to wind down their professional careers, or move onto something completely new in retirement.

Think about the push factors. What are the reasons pushing you into retirement? What are the negative aspects of the job? Is the nature of the work, the political environment, the work environment unsatisfactory? And then think about the pull factors. What are you looking forward to in retirement.

Roadburg says everyone, not only doctors, should sit down and outline their own push and pull factors before retiring.

“Make the decision to retire more on pull factors, not the push factors,” he says.

health and wellness day groupEvaluating your push and pull factors are some of the first steps to creating a life goal plan. He also suggests evaluating what skills and needs are met at work, and during off time. As one evaluates work life and non-work life, an overall picture emerges about personal needs and skills. And with that, a life goal plan will identify the needs and skills each person wants to satisfy in retirement, he says. Retirement may include travel, working part time, volunteering, teaching, or other pursuits.

And if you haven’t figured out what your third act will be, you’re not alone. About one third of people have a retirement plan; one third don’t have a plan; and the remaining third have an ‘iffy’ plan, Roadburg says.

But a happy and fulfilling retirement doesn’t just happen, he stresses.

The biggest mistake is not planning retirement, says Roadburg. And retirement comes down to one word: ‘freedom.’

“The word freedom underlies everything,” he says. “Is is a ‘freedom from,’ or a ‘freedom to?’ And then, a ‘freedom to do what?’”