Falling off perch… gracefully

Some months ago, I attended a retirement party for Dr Michael Rose, a FACEM retiring from RHH ED after 34 years continuous service. There were six retired fellows there, and as I chatted with them, and the current fellows, I realised how much I missed the camaraderie of working with them, the nurses, and clerks. As we relived old times, talked about people and incidents, the idea came to me that we should stay connected, and meet regularly, perhaps inviting a current FACEM to join us, and apprise us the current issues, that we only glean through the popular press. Likewise, current fellows can talk through the challenges we faced with retirement.

In 2001 at 58, I decided time had come to move on from full time ED, so I took a year with the Antarctic division, and after three months of enjoyable training, spent 14 months on Macquarie Island, the best year of my life, completely stress free, like being in scout camp, the few clinical challenges were easily managed, and much of the work was wellness promotion, counselling, and a plethora of common duties as deputy chef, firefighter, and brewer of the beer. It was the break I needed from full time ED work.

With no expenses, I arrived back with a pot of money, that went into super, and compounded nicely till retirement 13 years later.

Prior to departure south I had done the Adelaide course in Diving and Hyperbaric medicine, supported by Professor David Smart (the boss) and was able to take up a day a week there as consultant on return, and became director of training for IMGs, and half time lecturer in Emergency Medicine at UTAS, all of which was also stress free.

In the last five years I took mostly short FIFO jobs in refugee camps, detention centres, and oil rigs, all interesting, and finally COVID put an end to that, and at 75, retirement was forced upon me, and thus the idea of facilitating a retired fellows group ensued.

The biggest challenge of retirement is what to do to occupy time, and fill the void created.

Practice is all consuming, and committee work takes up much free time, that is now available for leisure pursuits. These days, with AHPRA you are either on the register, or off, there is no half way house, and with all the fees, a few locums are hardly possible, and CME/MOPS pages become a sea of red. You really miss the workmates too, and it soon becomes impossible to pass by the ED tea room, without a valid pass.

Voluntary work is great, I teach sailing, and take disabled folks out on a yacht twice weekly.

So far meetings are well attended, we have coffee, catch up on doings, grandchildren, discuss the shocking state of current emergency departments with triage times, overloads.

None of us miss work, and we are all busy. I have no intention of getting guest speakers, or official titles, just keep it low key and informal. We meet in Hobart at the Royal Yacht Club, as five of us have boats.

Wirth regard to ACEM, I think a transitions to retirement booklet/course/webinar and a session at the ASM on retirement, and perhaps support a dinner annually in each state, or one at the ASM. After all I calculate that after 37 years (1983-2020), of annual subs, say $35 a head would be reasonable, and attract the fellows.

At the ASM Hobart, we had a senior fellows room, so those inclined could meet, as we don’t need to attend sessions, but like to catch up with colleagues.

Funding retirement is worrisome, as no one can predict longevity, and the spectre of costly supported accommodation (an RACF, god forbid) hangs large at the end.

There are plenty of super websites with calculators, I am so grateful for the Keating compulsory super, as I started in the 1970s, and that early money did very well. Working part time till 75 was also a huge help, as I did not need to access it till then.

Most folks say “I will never have enough to retire” but it all depends on your lifestyle. I don’t go overseas anymore, have a small yacht, spend nothing on children, and my wife has her own super. So we are OK.

Don’t leave it too late, when failing health may take the shine off those last few years, and don’t work beyond your use by date, so someone has to tell you “you are past it !”

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