Writing a Great Retirement Speech for Doctors

Kristen Campbell
August 28, 2020

Now that you’ve decided to retire, you’ve prepared yourself financially, thought about what your plans are for the next few years, and made plans to wrap up or sell your practice, what’s left to do? Let your staff know you’re leaving! Whether you’re giving a speech at a retirement party thrown by your staff, a final morning meeting, or a more formal occasion, a great retirement speech should thank everyone for their years contributing to your medical career, offer your personal advice and wisdom, and talk about some of the things you’ll miss in the years to come. This physician retirement blog will offer some tips to make sure your retirement speech for doctors shines:

 

1. Think of Your Audience

A great speech comes not only from thinking about what you’ll say, but also by considering how it will be received. Before you start writing, think about who will be in the audience watching. Is it your medical office staff, who you want to make feel thanked and appreciated? Your colleagues, who you want to give advice to? Your patients, who you want to thank for their continued patronage to your clinic? More than many other professions, doctors build a community around their work – and it’s this community that you want to think about when you’re writing your speech.

This also helps with any internal pressure or stress over speech writing – even the most timid of public speakers can pull off a great speech if it comes from the heart and means something to the people watching. While the blank page might seem intimidating at first, it will be less so if you start out by thinking of what your speech will mean – or at least what you hope it will mean – to the people who make your life special. After all, you might be the one retiring, but you didn’t get here alone.

 

2. Make An Outline

Like stories, good speeches have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Though they might not realize it, your audience is expecting the same. If you’re not ready to go ‘off the cuff’ for your retirement speech, start by making a plan – maybe you’ll start with an anecdote about your career, a funny story about your practice, or a great quote.

You can follow this with a couple areas you might want to talk about – like the significance of medicine to you, your experiences building your practice, and the advice you’ve learned along the way. Plan to finish off by thanking employees and colleagues for their time with you, a few words of wisdom, or looking up some retirement sayings for doctors – like “welcome to happy Mondays” or “the trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”

An outline can not only help you structure your speech, it can also remind you of some areas you want to add detail to, help you organize your thoughts, and give you a way to find the ‘highlights’ of your medical career. Without one, you could risk your speech being too long, unfocused, or coming off as rambly. You want to leave your audience with a positive impact!

 

3. Gather Your Best Memories

This is the fun part! With your outline in place, you can start to sift through the memories you have from your years of practice. Ask friends and family members to help, or bring up the topic with your staff or colleagues. While the great stories might be too numerous to mention, your audience wants the highlights – pick a few of your best, funniest, or most heartwarming moments to weave into your speech.

It’s also a good idea to think about memories from different stages of your professional career. For example, you might start off with a story from the beginning of your career when you were just stepping into your physician role, how you felt on the first day of medical school, or stepping into your brand-new practice. In the middle of your speech, you might talk about balancing work with your family life, a time you faced a career challenge head on, or a difficult patient. At the end, you could finish with a story that is more current – one that reflects all that you’ve learned. 

Try to pick stories that are universal – not everyone in your audience is going to be able to relate to your personal successes, but many physicians can relate to feeling scared on their first day of practice, the heart wrenching sorrow of a difficult conversation with a patient, or the feeling of accomplishment after a long day. 

More than any other career, medicine offers you moments of connection. Focus on these, and you’ll keep your audience engaged the whole way through!

 

4. Write

Now it’s time to put pen to paper! While it might be tempting to put off your doctor retirement speech until the night before, many physicians aren’t doing much longform writing on a daily basis. Brush up those skills by starting early, and dive right in – there’s no wrong answer, and there’s no need to have a perfect first draft. Even if you think your speech is finished, you might find parts confusing when you go to deliver it later on, so there’s no need to worry about your audience’s reaction just yet. However, if it helps you to picture some people you love and write it for them, then do that!

Follow your outline and put pen to paper, getting down as much of what you want to say in your own voice as possible. Whether you’re a seasoned speech giver or a timid public speaker, it’s words that come from the heart that will make your piece shine. Avoid thinking about how it will be taken or perceived until after you’re done drafting, since worrying about how your audience will react will put pressure on your creative flow. Instead, find a quiet place with a closed door and start to write out your thoughts. 

Online examples of a retirement speech for doctors are a good place to get ideas for what to say, but you shouldn’t rely on them. You’re the one who needs to deliver your speech, so it should be your words and your voice. Don’t worry about being a brilliant writer or a fabulous speaker – words from the heart will ring true, no matter what language you use!

 

5. Practice Your Speech

Now that you’ve got a draft written, it’s time to practice! Even if you’re a seasoned pro at speech giving, practicing your retirement speech for doctors in your practice, family members, or friends, will give you an option to tweak or add things you might be missing. Now that your drafting is done, it’s time to start thinking about how you’d like the speech to land – are the jokes you wrote in your bedroom actually funny? Is there a chance a story you meant to be light hearted might be taken the wrong way? Getting some feedback, even if it’s just from your significant other, is crucial. 

A good rule of thumb is people critiquing your work are good at pointing out where something is off, and bad at pointing out how to fix it – if your significant other points out that parts of your speech are rambling, listen! But if they have a few suggestions about what to put in its place, think hard about how you would want to implement them, since this is a decision best made by you. Once you’re happy with the content, practice practice practice! 

Recording your delivery of the speech is a great way for you to see yourself the way others will see you – if you’re going too quickly, find the places where you should pause and note these down on cue cards or on your speech. If you’re planning to memorize your speech, make sure you can get it down in time! Plenty of preparation will make your delivery a breeze, and being surrounded by people you love will make it that much easier to give your best on the big day!

 

6. Calm Your Nerves

Ready to go? Whether you’re planning to give your retirement speech for doctors in your clinic, colleagues and friends in a formal setting, or in front of a large audience of your peers, practice and preparation will get you through! But while a little adrenaline isn’t a bad thing, don’t let your nerves derail your big moment!

Instead, take some deep breaths and remember what today is really about – celebrating your career with the people who mean the most to you. Focus on delivering your speech as a thank you to everyone who has helped you along the way, and your nerves will melt away!

 

Now that you’ve got a great speech planned and ready, it’s time to deliver it to friends, family, and the people who have helped you out along the course of your career – a great milestone to mark the beginning of your retirement. Bravo!

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