Friday, September 16, 2011


There's been a bit of soul searching going on this week for me. About 2 years ago I made the decision to retire when I hit 50, which is still a while away, and go travelling. Although my job is challenging and fulfilling, I'm also totally over spending my working life having to make what are often quite stressful decisions about
people's health care. I doubt I am alone in this, as many GPs are having to make increasingly complex decisions about patient care. The average patient seen by a GP these days has more chronic health problems, takes more medication, and requires more complicated management than the average patient 15-20 years ago. That's how far medicine has improved, people died of lots of things back then that we now manage to keep them alive with.

Let's not exclude the worried well. The ones who don't actually have anything wrong with them but have seen something on the internet or television that they need my advice about. You get fairly good at fielding these ones, but it's still a strain, as you still have to use caution to ensure you aren't missing something. It's quite an art to walk that line between over investigating and trusting in your knowledge and clinical experience when faced with a demanding patient.

Every job has its fair share of stressful decision making, and although the fantasy of being a checkout chick at Woolies has great appeal, I'd rather bypass the boredom, save up the dollars, and give the whole game away. Of course I can always do some short term locums, but it isn't quite such a rosy idea when you realise that my costs (registration, insurance etc) start at $6000 per annum for the privilege of working. Now I can spend 6 months travelling in Indonesia for that!!

Returning from my six week ski trip, I discovered that my succession planning regarding an Australian trained doctor in the practice had fallen through. Funnily enough because the aboriginal wife of this doctor doesn't want to bring her kids up near the bad influence of her own family in Geraldton. Yep, that's how screwed up some families are around here, and I totally support her doing the best by her kids. At least our doctor is going to work in Aboriginal healthcare somewhere else, not totally lost to the cause, and maybe they will return to Geraldton one day. And it's made me realise that in the end it isn't my responsibility to try and get home grown doctors in the practice, and that I shouldn't delay my departure accordingly.

So that leaves me with only 2 provisos on the retirement plan: money and Hazel. Although she's getting quite deaf, and the arthritis limits her activities a bit, she's happy and healthy for a 13 year old staffy. She may get through this summer, but I doubt she'll make it through another - age has a nasty habit of catching up with us all and I just thank how lucky I am that she's still in my life.

Which leaves us the M word. Just how much is enough? I can't even access my super till I'm 60, so I have to be self supportive at least until then, which leaves me needing a mixture of savings and investments. Well I'm doing OK on both those fronts, but having decided to move forward the retirement date, I thought it might be a good idea to start earning more money now. I've been part-time for the last 2 1/2 years and this week, after all the agonising, I decided to go back to full time. On a six week trial.

It's going to be an interesting ride, having really enjoyed the freedom of part time work, but as a short term option it doesn't feel so daunting. I'm pretty sure I'll go back to part time over the summer (so I can get lots of windsurfing in), and if my mental health holds out I'll do some extra hours again next year. In that way I can fill up the coffers quicker, and maybe take a year off the retirement date.

And because I don't have to supervise said doctor after July, I've already pencilled in a 7 week trip to the NZ ski fields for next year. Why not??

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