I've known that her retirement was coming for most of this year, so there has been plenty of opportunity to prepare for the transition and to hire a replacement. Fortunately, we've managed to poach a really excellent and experienced nurse from another physician who practices in the same field (sorry colleague!), so the new nurse will be about as good as possible for a replacement. I've also had some time to mentally prepare myself for the change, although I haven't done as much as I probably should have (see above statement re: "bit of denial").
Interestingly, from talking with the nurse who is leaving, it doesn't seem that she's done that much mental preparation for her retirement either. She seems to be very financially prepared - house paid off, full defined pension from over 30 years of service, personal savings beyond the pension - but she seems to have very little idea of what she's going to do with herself after working her last shift. When asked about her plans, she will say "Well....I have a lot of sewing I'd like to do".
She's not even 60! And she's been working full-time in a busy, stressful, and emotionally challenging medical practice. How does one transition from that to a life of doing "a lot of sewing"?
I worry about her, a little bit, at the same time as I am insanely jealous of anyone who has managed to permanently free herself from the need for full-time employment. I wonder if this incredible opportunity she has to explore new interests and do anything she wants to is going to feel like a disappointment, because she hasn't taken the time to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.
If I continue at my current savings rate, and there are no major economic collapses in the near future, then I'm on track to be able to retire in about nine years. And while I try not to focus on retirement and to live in the present moment as much as possible, you can bet there is part of me that is always dreaming about what I will be able to do in the post-employement stage of life. There will, of course, be many books to read, and as many places to travel as we can afford. But there will also be volunteer work, and community involvement, and learning to speak a second language, and writing, and so many other things. I will probably be busier in retirement than I am in my working life, because I will be able to choose to do whatever excites me most instead of doing things I don't love out of necessity. (Hint: It will not include dictating clinic letters.)
When I retire, it won't be just because I've saved up enough money and that's what people do as soon as they can afford to. It will be because whatever I have planned next is even better than the crazy but wonderful world of medicine.
On a completely unrelated note, if you like cats at all, then you should really find a way to see the documentary Kedi, which is about the street cats of Istanbul. It is beautiful and touching and funny and filled with cats, which makes anything in life better. M and I saw it yesterday, and even she, the intransigent dog lover, thought it was worth watching.