Now that I’ve reached my mid-50s, I sometimes think about retirement, and to be honest it worries me.
I’m not talking about the typical things you worry about pre-retirement, such as the loss of income or lifestyle changes. I worry about what will happen to my patients.
Why? For the simple reason that it will be hard to replace me. This isn’t my ego talking: there simply aren’t nearly enough new surgeons coming along to replace me – or my other contemporaries, for that matter.
I work in Glasgow, Montana, a town of 3,500 in northeastern Montana that is about as rural as it gets. I serve more than 20,000 patients in an area that runs 100 or more miles in every direction except north past the Canadian border. I’ve been on call essentially every hour of every day since I came to Montana over 20 years ago.