How to enjoy retirement (Dr Phil Welsby)

  1. Post-retirement

I am now retired. Although exciting and stimulating at the time, being a fulltime NHS consultant was stressful. I was at everyone’s beck and call with exponentially increasing interruptions from telephone calls, pagers (as a clinician I believed that I had to carry a pager), e-mails, and mobile phones from staff and patients that conspired to produce an uneasy combination of infinite availability with continual interruptions. I once had my pager interrupt an interruption, which had been interrupted by an interruption. Occasionally patients interrupted ward rounds by becoming acutely unwell. The only way for clinicians to have uninterrupted thoughts is to leave the hospital and switch off all electronic devices (pacemakers excepted). This stress was the price willingly paid for an interesting life. For some reason my clinically active colleagues report it unhelpful when I counsel “Stress is the price you have to pay for having an interesting life.”


  1. Keep on working

All non-retired doctors should all work hard; get well paid, and pay taxes. Paying your taxes will help pay my pension, will keep me in the manner I would like to become accustomed. Who could wish for more? Sadly the retired are a gravely neglected resource. Few retired colleagues, non-academics with experience of “real medical life,” are recruited to teach students. Once the time pressures of medical practice are removed we are, for a few years at least, in an ideal position to teach than your younger more stressed working colleagues. I derive great satisfaction in teaching medical students two days each week.


My advice to colleagues, particularly clinicians whose medical roles define their life, is to prepare for retirement by continuing or developing an interest to replace medical interests before they retire. Endoscopists and gynaecologists should take up potholing, cardiologists fitness training, neurologists internet networking, neurosurgeons safe breaking, radiotherapists shooting, dermatologists painting, surgeons carpentry and family planning doctors should become security guards. Some retirees embrace golf, primarily a social disease (surely there is no pleasure derived from delivering a ball down holes in a field?) whereas others embrace gardening, delivering bulbs into holes in a field.

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