What Physicians Should Know About Working After Retirement

Kristen Campbell
Aug. 13, 2020
10-minute read

Many physicians who retire from the field either sell their practice or leave their job and believe they’re hanging up their stethoscope for good – but after a few months of relaxation, they crave the more active engagement of their previous lifestyle. So what do they do? Is a retired doctor still a doctor? Are there jobs for retired doctors? Can a retired doctor still write prescriptions?

In Canada, the answer to these questions is a resounding yes, which means even if a physician has officially retired from practice previously, there are still plenty of options available to get back in the game. With more online jobs for retired physicians, flexible locum work, and part time roles cropping up every day, the time has never been better to extend your medical career.  Working after retirement can allow you the flexibility to choose work you’re passionate about. Here are some options to think about:

1. There Are Ways for you to Work Full Time

While many older doctors choose to work reduced hours, many feel that medicine is a calling rather than a career – and that you don’t stop being a doctor simply because you’ve reached a certain age. In fact, the number of doctors over 65 who are still practicing in Canada is around 11% of physicians, up from 9% in 2006.

If part time work just doesn’t cut it, there are plenty of full time jobs available. While you might have closed your practice or left your long term healthcare role, there are many other opportunities to take advantage of. You could choose to help finance a new practice with another physician, take on a posted job opportunity for a full time role, follow up on an interest in research or healthcare administration, or find work teaching or mentoring other physicians

So is a retired doctor still a doctor? Yes. In Canada, most provinces – including Ontario and Alberta – have no mandatory retirement age for physicians, although physicians in British Columbia are required to retire at 75.  A retired doctor can still write prescriptions and perform medical procedures the same way they would if they were not retired, so long as they still have malpractice insurance and are in good standing with their provincial regulatory body.

2. There Are Options For You To Work Online or Remotely

Although medicine has traditionally been a face to face industry, changing global work patterns and advances in technology have made telemedicine more popular. With younger physicians occupied working in their own clinics and hospitals, retired physicians are increasingly being called on to fill these telemedicine roles. Online jobs for retired physicians can be found on places like Indeed, on local job search forums, or on platforms like Maple

If online medicine isn’t an  thing, consider consultant jobs for retired physicians. If you’ve spent years honing your business skills by managing a thriving practice in addition to practicing medicine, you might find a position on a hospital administration board, government regulatory body, or healthcare administrator will allow you to blend your areas of expertise. As a retired physician, you could be called on to provide insight into areas of practice, guidance on procedures and policies, or direction in shaping administrative protocols. Your medical training allows you insight and empathy to connect patients’ needs with the designs and goals of healthcare administrators – an invaluable skill when it comes to shaping the practice of medicine in your community.

3. There Are Opportunities to Continue Your Education

It’s never too late to tackle a new opportunity! With the academic requirements of becoming a doctor so high, many physicians have an approach of lifelong learning. Whether it’s getting an MBA so you can tackle consulting jobs for retired doctors or going back to research a new specialization, much of the data on older physicians says that they’re most interested in editing, writing, researching, and joining broader networks of healthcare professionals globally. In short, retired physicians going back to work often want to work on a provincial or global level and shape the practice as a whole, rather than dealing directly with patients. 

Your years of school will prepare you for many of these opportunities, however, retirement isn’t a bad time to keep your mind active and brush up on your interest in different areas of medicine. While formal retraining might not be necessary to take advantage of a more academic job, taking (or teaching) classes is a great way to keep your skills sharp and your employment prospects interesting. 

4. There are Ways to Work and Travel

Locum work – filling in for other doctors who are on leave, have overflow patients, or are off sick – is a popular avenue for physicians looking to continue working after their retirement. There are positions for locums all over the country, with options anywhere you’re looking to travel. These positions are often flexible in hours and workload, which is a great option for physicians who have retired but want to stay in practice.

Even better, many locum roles are posted for positions in the United States or internationally. With a little planning in terms of Visa requirements and cross-country or global moves, you could end up finding a way to finance your retirement in the country of your choosing!

Since locum roles exist for all specializations, with a little research and the assistance of a locum recruitment agency, you can likely find a role that is a good match for you. If there are places to visit on your bucket list, it’s worth checking out whether or not there are locum roles available before you move – you never know what kinds of new experiences you’ll have when you travel as a physician!

5. You Don’t Have to Close Your Practice

Retirement research in Canada shows physicians who own their own practices working longer on average than other physicians. This could be for a number of reasons – it could be that the extra capital required to invest in the business meant it took longer for physicians to save for retirement, the additional flexibility of owning a practice left more room for a flexible exit, or that selling equity or assets in the business took longer than expected. In any case, physicians who operate their own practice as a sole proprietor or a partnership are more likely to delay their retirement. 

If you’ve built a professional career around running your own medical practice, you might not be in any hurry to shut your doors, but don’t worry – even if you want to drastically cut down on the hours you work, there are plenty of options to keep your business running in the interim. Hiring locum doctors of your own to cover off your vacation days, renting out office space to other doctors, or simply retaining ownership of the business and hiring other doctors to keep it going are all options available if you’re not ready to close up shop.

Practicing medicine is a lifelong process, and one you worked hard to learn. Your network of relationships with your colleagues, patients, and staff have supported you through your entire career, and while you might be in no hurry to hang up your stethoscope, there are plenty of jobs for retired doctors that would be a perfect fit for you. Happy hunting!

If you’re thinking about retirement read our full retirement guide to get some answers to your questions.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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Kristen Campbell
Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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