A Prescription for Physician Retirement: Exploring Ideal Timing and Locations

by Amy Brooksbank | Oct 02, 2023 |
A Prescription for Physician Retirement: Exploring Ideal Timing and Locations

Each physician retirement marks a pivotal phase in a doctor’s life, where years of dedication and hard work culminate in the pursuit of leisure, tranquility, and personal fulfillment. Successfully retired physicians advise colleagues to leave the profession while they’re still healthy enough to enjoy it. That’s certainly wise counsel. But it’s not the only key to a satisfying coda to a medical career. There are several areas to consider, including when and where to retire, as well as whether to keep a hand in the profession they’re leaving. These questions are vital to ensuring a rewarding and fulfilling retirement for those who have dedicated their lives to the noble profession of medicine.

When Are Physicians Ready to Retire?

The timing of retirement for physicians is a multifaceted decision. The American Medical Association (AMA) provides a checklist of topics to review before deciding to retire. Thinking beyond those important nuts and bolts items, doctors are influenced by such factors as those listed below that intersect both personal and professional considerations.

physician retirement

Health and Well-being

The state of physical and mental health plays a pivotal role in the decision to retire. Physicians want to move on when they can enjoy this time they’ve earned.

Financial Preparedness

Assessing one’s financial readiness for retirement is paramount. Physicians should consider their retirement savings, investments, pensions, and potential sources of income during retirement.

Goals and Aspirations

Retirement is an opportunity for physicians to pursue personal passions and interests. Reflecting on post-retirement goals, such as travel, hobbies, or volunteering, can help determine the right time to retire.

Personal Fulfillment

The busy professional life of a physician is sometimes difficult to walk away from. In fact, according to the AMA, many doctors find staying active in medicine, through either part-time or volunteer work, can be very rewarding. When considering physician retirement, considering locum tenens employment offers a compelling option. Such temporary work assignments that allow retired physicians to continue practicing on a flexible schedule may fit seamlessly into a retirement lifestyle.

locum tenens

Should Physicians Explore Locum Tenens Employment After Retirement?

The first question physicians should ask themselves before pulling up stakes is whether they want to maintain their medical license. The AMA recommends that retiring doctors keep their licenses for 2-5 years and stay current on their board certifications to have them in their hip pocket should they decide to practice again. One avenue for doctors to continue practicing and help ease the impact of the current doctor shortage, is the prospect of locum tenens employment. This can be an appealing option for physicians that offers several benefits:


Locum tenens work allows physicians to control their work hours and choose assignments that align with their preferences and interests.

Income Supplementation

Retired physicians can supplement their income from locum tenens work, helping to bolster their retirement savings or fund travel and other retirement pursuits.

Skill Retention

Continued clinical practice through locum tenens assignments enables retired physicians to retain their medical skills and knowledge, providing a sense of professional fulfillment.


Locum tenens positions offer a variety of clinical settings and experiences, allowing retirees to explore different facets of medicine.

Reduced Administrative Burden

Locum tenens physicians typically have fewer administrative responsibilities, allowing them to focus on patient care.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Where Should Physicians Consider Retiring?

After a dedication to the practice of medicine, physician retirement deserves to be tranquil and enriching. Choosing a destination that offers a harmonious blend of relaxation and fulfillment should also take into account factors such as quality of life, cultural amenities and access to quality healthcare facilities. Below are 6 of the top US retirement destinations that meet those criteria.

Asheville, North Carolina

Renowned for its natural beauty and cultural vibrancy, Asheville offers an intellectually stimulating and active lifestyle. It also features an impressive healthcare system, including renowned hospitals such as Mission Hospital, ensuring accessible medical care for retirees.

Naples, Florida

On Florida’s Gulf Coast, Naples offers pristine beaches and a thriving dining scene. Accessible healthcare is guaranteed through institutions like Naples Community Hospital.

Portland, Oregon

Known for its scenic beauty and progressive urban culture, Portland offers a vibrant retirement experience. Healthcare excellence is upheld by Oregon Health & Science University and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

San Diego, California

With its temperate climate and coastal vistas, San Diego provides a laid-back lifestyle for physician retirement. The city’s healthcare system, including the University of California, San Diego Health System and Scripps Health, ensures retirees have access to world-class medical services.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe’s adobe architecture, art scene, and culinary delights create a unique and appealing atmosphere. The city’s healthcare is supported by facilities like Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and the University of New Mexico Hospital.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Desert landscapes and outdoor activities make Scottsdale perfect for an active retirement. The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale ensures access to top-tier healthcare services.

physician retirement

So Long, But Not Goodbye?

The transition to retirement marks a pivotal phase in a physician’s life, where years of dedication and hard work culminate in the pursuit of leisure, tranquility, and personal fulfillment. Decisions around physician retirement, like selecting the ideal time and place to transition, are decisions that carry immense significance. As retiring physicians embark on this new chapter, it is crucial to consider not only the allure of natural beauty and cultural amenities but also access to those things that ensure quality of life, which can sometimes include the satisfaction of continuing to practice.





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