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Matthew Tupper

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Retired Doctors, how do we make better use of them?

The western world's population is ageing and those with high levels of expertise are being allowed to drift uselessly into retirement. How do we deal with this? How can we continue to harness their skills, knowledge and experience to improve society?

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      Mar 25 2012: You know, I was thinking the same thing.....to ask the physicians themselves

      Doctors and their families are probably wore out after 20-30 years of practice....Kind of like teachers, or firemen, or policemen.....

      To tell you the truth, I have never run into a retired doctor.

      I imagine they grow old and tired, just like the rest of us.

      I imagine that after they retire, they also get sick and spend much of their time as patients.

      All your ideas are fantastic....I loved the "Help Create best practices in medicine..."

      In the long run, it is their choice, like it is for everyone.

      Matthew, I do understand the reason you asked this question.....thank you.
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        Mar 27 2012: I understand that it is their choice when they retire, up to a point. There is an age limit in many countries when Doctors are no longer able to practice medicine. I was looking to find a solution to this where IF Doctors wanted to continue to offer their services they could. It would be completely optional.
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          Mar 27 2012: Well, I did not know that Matthew.

          And, thank you for the clarification of your question below.

          I think that school systems could benefit from having a doctor on site once a week. Don't you? There used to be nurses in every school. Now there is nobody to care for ill children.

          And, it is not that stressful. Maybe the drs. will even inspire future medical specialists.

          What do you think of that idea?
  • Mar 23 2012: "drift uselessly into retirement?" People earn their retirement. If they wanted to keep working, they wouldn't retire.
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      Mar 27 2012: Actually I think that quite often or at least a few times Doctors don't want to retire but are forced to by legislation. And when they do retire they are allowed to keep referring themselves (potentially friends as well), what I was trying to come up with was a way in which they can keep offering their services if they still want to.

      And of course if they would like to retire and never work again they are more than entitled to. They have, as you say, earned it.
  • Mar 22 2012: Odd question.

    We do not own them, nor are they a national asset.

    Perhaps a better question might be: "What should we offer people that have endured the stress of a medical career for enough years to retire that might make them want to continue to help the public in general in some different way that takes advantage of their skills?"

    Another good question might be "How do we sweeten the deal for the top students to convince them to use their talents as medical doctors in some low paying public service job rather than a lucrative medical career?"
    • Mar 23 2012: You are right, the question is posed in a wierd way, but I'm sure he meant to ask exactly what you translated for us.

      Related to your second question - you can't possibly hope for this to happen when the education your parents give you aims towards making money, the education schools give you aim towards making money and the whole view of success by society is completely related to making money - WE NEED TO CHANGE THIS... how can we do it?

      It's very hard since the people in power want the masses to work, fight, live and die for money, so the whole system is laid out in a way of distraction. How can you convince a kid to turn off the tv, the playstation, or whatever and grab a book? We are that kid... you can't really.
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      Mar 27 2012: Robert, that is a very good point and one that I overlooked when posing this question.

      I was thinking along the lines of what framework can we put in place to enable Doctors to keep making a contribution to the medical profession? I read on TED that in Mexico there has been an initiative to put in 'health booths' where patients can get basic medical care via video link. Perhaps this is the kind of initative that would also be very beneficial globally? And retired Doctors might be the best to offer this service. It would be a lot less stress, probably a lower work load and would enable a much greater coverage of high quality healthcare.
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    Mar 27 2012: I suspect that like a lot of other careers, the people who go into medicine at a young age are not the same coming out after decades of service. So for me the aim is not react to burnout, but to discourage rustout. So it's about facilitating a calling to wisdom while recognising physical and perhaps mental changes that are part of the natural process.

    For me the third phase of life is about utilising wisdom and reigniting passion and excitement, words that are often missing in this phase.
    Remember retirement as a concept is a modern one and didn't come into existence until the 1870's.
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    Mar 26 2012: Hey there Matthew. Good question. Aside from the fact that Retirement is not just a company promise but a personal and social selection on well being, I could say that they should not perform or be utilized in an environment requiring them to be put under stress or more flexible on-call schedule UNLESS they opt to. Most of my family friends that are doctors choose to give assistance in the medical field with "teaching" or "mentoring". Teaching in classrooms and mentoring inside the ER or actual execution will be of great help considering their knowledge that can guide any learning or developing doctor in the best medical future they can.
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      Mar 27 2012: Riela, I definitely think an 'opt in' scheme would be a great idea.
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    Mar 24 2012: With humble apology, 'USE' is a word of humiliation and disrespect. They are the owners of their own life and best judge to take their own decisions. They have served and developed the society in the best possible way and must have saved many human lives, facilitated with comfort to much bigger number.

    In doing so they must have sacrificed many of their dreams and aspirations. Let we help them to revive on all that and live happily and complete their journey with peace and a sense of achievement.

    To respect their knowledge and experience, it must be shared through different programs, events and providing them a writing assistant. They carry the legacy of knowledge and experience, let's respect it and their contribution.

    With regards

    The Mindfood Chef
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    Mar 24 2012: They can pass their knowledge to students - they can be Deans of med. facuties also they can be consultants at big hospitals and health centres
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    Mar 23 2012: Why just doctors? How about plumbers; dentists; painters and janitors? How do "we" make better use of retired - - - - - - - -?
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      Mar 27 2012: Well said Edward, I was thinking specifically about Doctors as there with the increase of mhealth solutions there could well be a platform for 'retired' Doctors to offer their services in a less 'full on' manner.
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    Mar 23 2012: If doctor's don't know what to do with themselves once they retire - they could do worse than to discuss health and lifestyle issues with kids.

    Issues around drink, drug abuse, sex and STD's, pregnancy, stress, the benefits of personal hygiene, self examination, a balanced diet and exercise to good health. When to use medical services and when not to dial 999 e.g. Help I've broken my fingernail! The killers of the future will stem from poor diet and infection.
  • Apr 3 2012: I'm wondering if retired doctors are rushing to volunteer to help pharmaceutical companies make more legal drugs by volunteering to test the new drugs.
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    Apr 3 2012: Matthew, First you are assuming that the Doctors want to continue working. There are different circumstances for different countries. In the US Doctors have private practices and are afillated with a hospital for surgery. This allows Doctors to obtain some degree of wealth. As I understand socialized medicine (correct me if I am wrong) the doctors work for the government health agency and are saleried. This does not allow for accumulation of wealth nor allows for full retirement. Lets call the US Doctors group A and socialized doctors group B. Group A has many options. Say he started a practice and developed a partnership with X amount of other doctors. He can sell, limit his time, or serve as the chairman of the medical group he developed and collect a part of the fees. Many options. Group B has limited options. Keep working, retire at a percentage of his salery, or seek other opportunities. A good use of their talents would be volunteer work, community service, teaching at various levels, or even entering politics at various levels. There are always, jails, detention centers, prisons, clinics, orphanges, and the like in need of skilled professionals. The UN employees those who would travel to needy countries. In conclussion I suggest that these professionals are capable of deciding their future and have either planned for it or decisions were made for them by the government they served. Opportunities are available if they wish to serve. All the best. Bob
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    Apr 2 2012: elect them as presidents
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    Apr 2 2012: Teach, in the most effective way by apprenticing new doctors.

    A retired doctor I see frequently says that a lot of the stuff is no longer being taught, one example he gave was how to bring a person out of cardiac fibrillation without any equipment.
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    Apr 2 2012: Doctors who have already retired can document their experience in medical field and produce articles, books and knowledge material that can be easily shared with other doctors in that field. They could mentor young doctors too.
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    Mar 31 2012: I have read almost all comments (apart from the arguing about doctors and pharmaceutical companies) , and there are still somethings that were not mentioned, or were without the due detail.

    As mentioned, the option of keeping doctors in hospitals, peripheral health centers, or lecturing must always be optional.
    For those willing, and mostly those who have proven through their careers to be valuable, it should an open option.
    I studied and currently live in Czech Republic, and here this is a common practice. Basically, those interested have the opportunity to downgrade salaries and work hours and still have a role at the faculty or hospital. I appreciated and felt it was humanly correct. They were motivated and much dedicated.

    I had some professors teaching few classes at clinical subjects that were old. They were over 70, and their lessons were a valuable part of my medical and human education. These doctors come from the times where medicine was more clinical than laboratory or complementary exam based. They could tell the type of anemia, the valve defect, the nutrition defect, so many things... just by examining the patient and clinical history.

    On other hand, I spent uncountable hours listening to other old doctors that due to lack of memory would ask the same question or to check some patient with and interesting finding 5 times, or they wouldn't be as updated in medical knowledge as needed... You can't have these second type of persons teaching or working as consultants.

    So yes I agree people should have the option to stay active, but I also think that as all other, they most fulfill standards.
  • Mar 29 2012: The mistake lies in the fact that doctors are not allowed to wind down. Sadly they are treated as a commodity by the system with very little appreciation for their service. The options should be present to gradually reduce their workload and give more flexibility to keep them interested and stimulated in their work.
    Left to me I would take them to places where their true value would be appreciated by the patients - not in a developed country.
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      Mar 31 2012: apart from the fact that I may not wish to be taken anywhere, it is often a life changing experience being of value in another environment. So perhaps we could set up a system whereby professionals can connect their invaluable gifts to fresh pastures instead of been put out to pasture
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    Mar 27 2012: I think that is a great plan. They could register to do it in the local area and once a term (semester) go out and give an assembly or talk to a specific class. They could do a q&a session or just a general talk around a relevant current topic i.e. Diabetes.

    It would be a great value add and as you say it could also potentially be inspirational to school children
  • Mar 27 2012: I like that question a lot more.

    First, I am not a doctor, so I can only guess what might work.

    I would expect that at any patient/doctor interface, there is a trust between doctor and patient that is pretty sacred. If a doctor retires, it could very well be because he/she no longer feels up to the challenge of providing a level of service commensurate with this trust.

    If I were looking for ways in which they may still contribute where this trust was not soley on their shoulders, I would look for opportunities to mentor younger doctors in non-clinical situations, use their knowledge to help people understand the choices they are being given in complex and difficult medical situations, work with paramedics in remote locations or in extreme circumstances where having and extra person with medical knowledge made a difference. They might be great speakers to talk to kids about career choices, health choices, and coping with medical conditions. They might work on a cruise ship or similar situation where there was some enjoyment associated with the job in a part time situation for a day or two to get free cruises. They may work with Public health service as representatives to promote public health in remote areas and spot medical conditions that need attention, in exchange for free travel. As long as their confidence in thier skills remains in tact, perhaps some sort of cooperative free clinic run with other doctors on a part time basis would be attractive. Hard to say.

    So much depends on the doctor. Some would never be able to step back into a lesser role and work themselves to death, which doesn't seem fair. Some would find anything less than being a practicing doctor a bit demeaning. I am not sure money is a strong enough incentive. Perhaps adventure, or opportunity to do a lot of good in a short period of time would be appealing.
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    Mar 27 2012: I firstly have to apologise for the fatuousness of the wording of my question. I didn't mean to disrespect anyone by suggesting that drifting into retirement was a bad option. What I was trying to create a discussion around was how do we offer another option for those that still wish to offer their services but are being ushered quietly out the door.

    With the advent of mobile health solutions, i.e. Skin scan app or the health solution described by Jose Marquez in Huffington post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jose-marquez/will-mhealth-revolutioniz_b_1324991.html, there is a massive opportunity for society to offer an opportunity for doctors to work but in a less stressful/intensive environment. Potentially through being the consultant at the end of the phone/app?
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    Mar 26 2012: I wondered in your question whether there are environments that come to mind to you, Matthew, in which highly skilled physicians are being made to retire when they would still prefer to be giving service and are still able (in the sense of skills and their own health) to do so?
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      Mar 27 2012: I was thinking specifically to do with the advent of mhealth solutions and whether there was a way in which highly skilled physicians could continue to offer their services through these.

      In my opinion the mass proliferation of mobile devices has made the world smaller and more accessible. Perhaps there is a way in which highly experienced physicians can offer their services to areas of the world which are lacking in high level healthcare without having to undergo the travel to reach that area.
  • Mar 24 2012: Perhaps retired doctors can offer themselves to pharmaceutical companies to be used for experimentation for testing new drugs.
    • W T 100+

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      Mar 25 2012: hahahaha what happened to positive thinking??

      You are outrageous Rhona!!!
      • Mar 25 2012: I am under the impression that doctors think very highly of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical companies, so for doctors, this would be positive.
        • W T 100+

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          Mar 26 2012: Oh, I agree with you......but it is negative for the doctor...don't you think?

          Still, it was a good laugh...your dry wit always brings a roaring laugh from me.

          Happy Sunday!!!
      • Mar 26 2012: I think doctors can judge for themselves, what with all that education and wisdom and experience with pharmaceuticals and pharmacy companies. They would know better than I would what is good with respect to pharmacy companies and pharmaceuticals.
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    Mar 24 2012: Uselessly! O wow. Well I'd say maybe some of these people have their own plans for what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I'm sure those who are still interested in helping still do.
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    Mar 23 2012: Lecturing
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    Mar 23 2012: It would seem the thing retiring doctors have that we most want is their years of experience and personal boots on the ground knowledge about it. The answer seems plain and simple, set up a viable internship program with the AMA, they can ease gracefully into retirement by cutting their work load down to say 20-30 hours a week and pass down valuable information that otherwise could be lost. This would be a supplement to medical school not a replacement for any current part of the current training. Keep in mind, it would need to be lucrative for the doctor to make it worth their time. With the prices people pay in medical school, I'm sure something can be worked out.
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    Mar 22 2012: For some people, retirement is an opportunity to make a much wanted change in lifestyle. sometimes the work they leave no longer interests them and they are following new interests. For others it's a well deserved rest or a means of coping with poor health. Some are forced into retirement (definitely in the UK) by the obsession for classifying people's usefuleness in terms of their date of birth.

    Very few are 'drifting uselessly'. For those who desire retirement, they've earned it! For those who don't, let's do something about the age discrimination that excludes them from work they want to do.