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Doctors at Work Podcast.

Episode #96

How to plan your retirement. With Nitin Shrotri

Mat Daniel

11/06/2024

In this episode, Nitin talks about his retirement. Whilst he has finished clinical work, he remains involved in professional aspects of medicine. He outlines the challenges of going from being a consultant to, as he puts it, nothing, and stresses the importance of people both peri and post-retirement.

If you enjoyed this episode you might also like episode 72 on retirement. Nitin’s previous episode on supporting SAS doctors is episode 69.

Nitin Shrotri is a Consultant Urologist, who was awarded the BAUS Gold Medal for 2022, and has recently been appointed as Visiting Professor at the Institute of Medicine at the University of Bolton and also as Vice Chair at the Centre for Race Equality in Medicine. Before this he was BMA UK Council member between 2020-22 and a member of the GMC BME Forum last year. You can connect with Nitin on LinkedIn, and read his writings at nitinshrotri.com.

Listen at https://matdaniel.net/podcast/https://open.spotify.com/show/1j8uLaUU1g5bYTRVuwUX7j?si=672ec26a73164d7fhttps://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/doctors-at-work/id1701284564; or watch on www.youtube.com/@dr-coach/videos.

You can find out more about Mat at www.MatDaniel.net. Production: Shot by Polachek

Podcast Transcript

Mat: [00:00:00] Welcome to Doctors at Work. My name’s Mat Daniel and this podcast is about doctors careers. It’s part of my mission to help doctors create successful and meaningful careers. Today we’re talking about retirement and I’m interviewing Nitin who has retired from clinical practice but actually continues to work in some aspects relating to professional practice.

Um, he tells me that there’s a challenge in retirement because you go from being a consultant to, as he puts it, nothing. And he stresses the importance that other people play, both period of retirement and in life. after retirement.

Welcome Nitin. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Nitin: Hi Mat, good to be here. Thank you for the invite. Um, Mat, um, I am a consultant urologist who has now retired from clinical practice a year ago. Uh, but I’m still doing a couple of things which are interesting mainly for international medical [00:01:00] graduates.

One of them is that I’m a visiting professor in a university up north, Uh, where we support, uh, doctors who are in trouble with the GMC. And the other one is where I’m a co vice chair for the Center for Race Equality in Medicine. Again, this is to help international medical graduates. To get a fairer hearing from the GMC.

Uh, all these, uh, posts are new posts, which have just been created recently. And we are working towards, you know, making them solid.

Mat: And the topic for us today is, um, retirement, but, um, it doesn’t sound like you’ve retired, so maybe. Maybe a, maybe a starting question would be, what is retirement for you?

Nitin: That’s a very good question, Matt. Uh, I mean, retirement for every individual is a very personal thing, really. Um, I remember clearly, uh, the day I [00:02:00] actually, uh, finished my job in the NHS. Um, it was, it was, uh, there was an initial sense of elation saying, Oh, I have escaped intact from the trials and tribulations of the health service.

Um, and, and that, that’s a really good feeling. And I, I did write up a few, uh, reflections, uh, on, on that, uh, one of which was, was saying, thank you, I’m, I’m out of here and I’m still alive and, and, and kicking. And to be honest, I left at 60. But, um, what I’ve heard recently is that only 8 percent of people in the world make it beyond 65.

And I’ll be 65 later this year. And I’m just thinking that I’m just very lucky to be alive. So, and reasonably fit and well. So if we can be active, alert, and be alive at this agent stage, I think that that is good [00:03:00] enough, really. So I think that’s the first thing about retirement, but, but after a few days, after a month or so, the, the, the, the stock emptiness kicks in because suddenly one day you were, you know, Mr.

God or next to God as a consultant and people treated you with so much respect and deference. And the next day you are just nothing, absolutely nothing. So it’s, it’s a huge void that you suddenly fall into and however much you prepare for it. I don’t think you can actually know what to expect until you actually go through it yourself.

And I say this because I’ve talked to other consultants who are about 20 years senior to me and they have expressed the same feeling. It’s in one day. I was a senior senior consultant, everybody bowing and scraping, uh, towards me. And the next day you walk out and you’re complete, complete nobody. So I think that’s a difficult thing to handle.

[00:04:00] Um, and which is where mental health comes in. And I think mental health is, is, uh, something that we should, uh, be aware of. And be respectful about it. And if you see people suffering, we must be be good to her son. Uh, yes. Uh, the other thing is, uh, uh, personal perception of other people that when, once you’re retired, you are, you know, on the rubbish heap.

And that is not quite true, as I’ve just said to you that I do a few other things. So retirement in a line, I would say is having the opportunity. To live life at your own terms. So you don’t need to bow or scrape to anybody. You have enough money. to make it for the rest of your life. And you don’t need to depend on anybody, uh, which, you know, in the NHS, [00:05:00] as a consultant, we, we do get, uh, pushed around, which does lead to, uh, some form of burnout, I think.

And I, looking back, I realized that, uh, I had burnt out to extend and I’m I’m a much, much in a much better place now than I was when I retired, because you suddenly realized that there’s more to the world than your workplace. But you do miss all your all your work interactions as you miss your work colleagues, you know, the, the odd one with whom you disagree.

Um, but most of them, you get along really well, they’re good mates, good friends, and just saying hi, hello, every morning. is fantastic and you really missed that.

Mat: I’m interested in that idea that, that, you know, one day you’re a consultant and, you know, he has the challenges with that. And yes, there are privileges that come with that.

Um, and then you sort of say the following day, you’re nothing, um, and you’re on the rubbish heap. And I can see that. You know, [00:06:00] there’s something there about our identity, isn’t it? You know, as, as doctors or the same would apply to GPs or in fact, anybody else, you know, one day you are a professional and a huge amount of our identity is, is wrapped up in who we are and how we see ourselves.

And then overnight, um, that’s changes. I mean, how, how do. How have you seen people around you deal with that loss of identity and then having to create a new identity for themselves?

Nitin: I, I haven’t seen many other people actually in my situation because, um, in my, in my hospital, um, I’ve got a couple of senior consultants who walked away from the hospital, from the department about five or 10 years before I left.

And yeah, 12 years before I left. And they just disappeared into complete nothingness. I have not heard from them. I’ve hardly heard anything about them. So I, and, and for some [00:07:00] reason they haven’t kept in touch with us, perhaps our fault, I don’t know, perhaps we didn’t make them feel welcome. Uh, but I have got friends and colleagues with whom I’m still in touch, which is a, is a good feeling.

So it would really be nice if departments or GP surgeries. kept in touch with their oldies as I, as I call myself an oldie. I’m an oldie. And I think it’s a nice feeling to be welcomed back, um, in your department. And I am, I’ve been to the hospital a few times for this, that, and the other. And, um, people are happy to see me.

They have a genuine smile on their face, which makes me feel that, uh, feel, feel good about myself. And it’s really nice to meet them.

Mat: If I think of, I can think of three consultants in my department that have retired. So one person was there, and the following day, [00:08:00] they just disappeared. Like literally overnight, they just disappeared.

And I think one, one consultant lives there. Quite close to them. So occasionally sees them in the street, but but that person totally disappeared Um, and I think they had they had lots of hobbies and activities outside of medicine And I think for for them that the disappearing was that that that they had very clear Other things that they had on the agenda and they just moved there So I think of kind of a of a middling consultant that did retire and stopped working But we did keep asking them back.

So, you know, will you we named the prize after them, you know Sort of will you come and talk, you know come and present the prize, you know Chair a conference, etc. And and then and we kept doing that and then over time that person got increasingly reluctant to come back and sort of talk and chair at conferences and share experiences and got sort of to the stage Where where where that person then said, you know, it’s lovely that you’re asking me back [00:09:00] But you know my life’s moving in a different direction.

So they kind of very much had You know, a transition, yeah, sort of the, the, the clinical work gradually wound down and other stuff gradually wound up. Um, and then if I kind of think of, of a third consultant that, that, that has both ongoing clinical stuff and, sort of completely different existence outside the work.

And that person does two clinical sessions on a kind of retire return basis. So, so they come back and they’re still part of our department, but on two clinical sessions. And the rest of the time they have a totally different existence that is totally non clinical. So, so kind of three very different things, you know, either completely disappear, or gradually transition or run two parallel lives, um, sort of going forwards.

Um, and I think sort of that kind of to me seems interesting because there’s obviously, there’s obviously more than one way of retiring. Yes. Yes. Of course.

Nitin: What, what happened to me is that I, I left my NHS practice [00:10:00] in February, 2020. Uh, and that’s just before COVID struck, and, uh, I was still doing some private work, but private work dried up during COVID as well, so, uh, that was a really tough time in a sense, but I actually found another side to myself, and during COVID, I, I, I wrote some poems, uh, which I published in a little book, which is on my website.

Uh, but one of the poems is about two surgeons living together, and that is an issue, uh, that, that becomes a problem, can become a problem, uh, when we retire. Because I’ve written about two surgeons living together, because my wife is a gynecologist, and the trick of escaping arguments, which can be, you know, knife sharp arguments, is by disappearing on war grounds.

Which is a great excuse to go away from home for a few hours, cool down and [00:11:00] come back. But once you retire, there is no escape like that. And therefore, you know, it does become difficult until you both realize that, uh, yes, we’re both on each other’s nerves, um, and you’ve got to, uh, you know, calm down a bit.

And, and Be kind to your, your, your life partner, just because, uh, you know, you, you can’t afford to get on each other’s nerves. Um, so, so that, that, that’s quite a, quite an interesting, uh, aspect that I found out. But, but things have settled down now. Now I’m completely retired since last year. And yes, life, life is, is much, much more balanced in that sense.

Mat: How did you plan for your retirement? You know, if I take you back to, you said you retired in 2020, let’s say if I take back to, I dunno, you know, 2017, 18, what plans were you making?

Nitin: I, I, I [00:12:00] didn’t, to be honest, I couldn’t. Um, I, I got a bit fed up, um, in my job, uh, around the middle of 2019 and I thought I wasn’t enjoying it.

So I decided to just leave. Um, and, and, uh, it did affect my pension, uh, to an extent. So I think. What I would say to people is that, um, yes, if you want to leave, leave, but it will affect, it can affect your pension. So look at the numbers, um, that, that go with your retirement date. And I didn’t really look at it properly or I actually wasn’t bothered.

I couldn’t be bothered. I said, I’ll make do with what I get. You know, I won’t fly business class, I’ll fly Columbia or whatever and, you know, live a simpler life. Um, but life has been good. So, so I didn’t actually plan for my retirement. I said, But funny enough, it is after my retirement from the NHS [00:13:00] that I, um, did a very good project, uh, which I have mentioned in one of the earlier podcasts, the SAS and BALS project, which is Um, a project to support SAS and LE doctors, uh, in their quest for, uh, the portfolio pathway and the season.

So I actually was given a life limb by the president of the British Association of Urological Surgeons by allowing me to run with this project, which took up my time. I really enjoyed it. And in doing that, I could actually help my colleagues towards, uh, something, something good for themselves. So it was very, very fulfilling.

Um, the best time I think was for me professionally was just after retirement, funny enough.

Mat: And it’s interesting that, that as you said, people retire, but people have lots of. [00:14:00] lots of expertise, um, and, um, and wisdom and, and respect from other people because, you know, many, many people early in their career, people are often, um, people often have very strong views and very strong emotions.

And maybe sort of, as you get older, at least that’s what I’m noticing in myself, hopefully, you know, I’m getting less reactive and more wise. and sort of been more willing to listen and more willing to take other people’s views into account than perhaps I was, you know, 20 years ago. Um, and I think, you know, what you’ve outlined is a real, is a real good use of people that are, you know, peri retirement.

That have that that expertise and that seniority and that that ability to bring people together and create consensus and and to command respect so that other people engage with, you know, whatever project you might be leading.

Nitin: You’re right, you’re right. I think as we get older, we do get wiser [00:15:00] and to an extent also getting away from a place.

you can dissociate your, your emotions from, uh, facts really. And, and you can actually assess things better. And I think that is when the, that’s the time when, you know, all your life history, your upbringing and your lived experiences. They all kick in and in a sense it, uh, this is not about religion because, uh, I, I’m a really a non practicing Hindu as such, but I, I see myself in this, in the third stage of life.

The first stage being education. The second being you fulfilling your duties towards society. And the third is about giving back. And that’s the stage that I am at. That’s what I’m trying to do because it gives me immense personal joy and personal satisfaction when I’m able to help somebody with, with, with, you know, whatever that problem is.

And as somebody who’s removed [00:16:00] from the profession to a certain degree, uh, and from the workplace to a certain degree, uh, it, it, you can assess and, uh, advise dispassionately, um, and your experience comes into help. So that’s, that’s how I see myself. The fourth stage is where you become an aesthetic and walk away to the Himalayas, but that won’t happen here.

I’ll probably go into a nursing home here or retirement.

Mat: I hope you’re enjoying the show. Please click subscribe. So you’ll be notified when new episodes become available. This podcast is part of my mission to help doctors create successful and meaningful careers. You can be part of that mission too by forwarding this show to one person who you think might benefit from listening.

Thank you. Now on with the show. Um, I’m, I like the idea that, that, that, that maybe later on in sort of third stage of their [00:17:00] careers, people get to the, to the era of giving back. I mean, how do, how do people find opportunities and ways to do that? You know, let’s sort of say somebody who’s in their late fifties, early sixties, who.

who has retired or is thinking of retirement, but they’re still wanting to do stuff. You know, how, how do they create and find opportunities to, to give back?

Nitin: Well, this is where I think professional bodies and hospital trusts need to recognize and, and do, you know, do something for their, their retired folk really.

Um, there are some of us who can, you know, Switch off and walk away saying goodbye and never look back. But some of us can’t, you know, do that. Some of us want to stick around for whatever reason. Um, and I think, uh, like my professional body helped me immensely. Um, and and my trust hasn’t. But that’s because we probably didn’t get along.

But [00:18:00] my department is still in touch with me. You know, colleagues are and I’m friends with them. Um, And we have, uh, you know, good, good camaraderie amongst ourselves when we meet up. Um, but yes, I think hospital trust, uh, GP practices perhaps also could do that if people want to. And I think they do do, but, uh, it’s, I think it’s a very individual relationship between, uh, bodies, uh, trusts and, and, and, uh, doctors as such.

I’m thinking that what really the key messages that I would have is that, Family and friends are important. Uh, family is what saves you really, uh, because you are likely to have children or grandchildren. Though not everybody has that these days, people are different, but that is what has helped me to a degree.

Um, I have grandchildren who, with whom I, I’ve become a child, [00:19:00] completely, you know, simple guy and we have lots of, uh, silly fun, which is really nice. Um, and having a supportive family is very, very important. The other thing of friends who are not like you and who are not in the same echo chamber because being in the same echo chamber can be a bit monotonous and you become a very rigid personality.

I would say that as we age, we do become more and more set in our ways, and it is important that we Keep an open mind, open thinking and be open to other people’s, you know, thought processes and suggestions. So having friends who are not like you, and I do have them there. They’re a very naughty bunch and friendly and loving, too.

Um, so that that that’s important. The most important thing, however, is gratitude and being thankful for being here still really. [00:20:00] Um, keeping a moderation, keeping, keeping a balance in life, being moderate about things, not being too greedy, because I think as, as doctors, our pensions are pretty reasonable.

It’s been great, but you know, it’s, it’s okay. And with me and my wife, we can manage things pretty reasonably. And the biggest quality I think that we should all adopt on retirement is loving our fellow human beings. Because that gives endless joys and somehow that’s what I find. I, I love my fellow humans.

I would like to do anything I can for them. It’s no big deal and it just gives me great joy. So I’m doing it for completely selfish reasons. So when somebody says, thank you, Nitin, or thank you, Mr. Shrotri, or, uh, you’re so good. You’re so nice. No, I’m doing it completely for, for myself, really. So there’s a completely selfish aspect to that.

Mat: I thought, I thought I was the only [00:21:00] person who thought like that, but there’s, there’s, there, there’s two of us , so good, good, good. Yeah, I, I like that. You, you mentioned people now and you also talked about how important people were earlier, so, you know, what, what role do other people play when you’re planning your retirement?

Nitin: You got me there perhaps because I’m not really a planner. I do think ahead, but I don’t think terribly far too far ahead. Um, but like I said, the people that matter are your family, your friends, your colleagues, who, with whom you will no longer be there. Um, and I do use a lot of social media to, to keep in touch.

So I’m very active on, on Twitter or X. I’m pretty active on WhatsApp. I’m quite really active on Facebook, and that’s a great way of keeping in touch with, uh, with, with, uh, [00:22:00] with people with who would like minded with with friends and family. Even my 93 year old mother is on all these. So she’s very much on social media.

So I think I have a thing or two to learn from her.

Mat: So maybe if I kind of go back to the idea of planning or not planning, cause you said that, that, you know, you reached the point and sort of you, you, you just made a decision. Um, so I’m wondering how much planning is needed, you know, is planning good, is planning bad, how much planning should one do, or do you, you just sort of say, that’s it and I’ll see what happens

Nitin: again, it’s a very personal thing, but what I would say to people is that I think pension planning is important, uh, because financial planning matters.

And that’s the one thing that I could have done better, but luckily I’m okay and I can have enough to, you know, get away. Uh, also, I think, um, they do say that, um, a lot of us live poor [00:23:00] and die rich. So I think we should try and use up the money that we have, um, or, or hand it to our next generation while they’re alive or donate to charities.

Um, when we, when, when, you know, we still can, and, uh, I think financial planning matters a lot. So getting good financial advice is important before we decide one decides to retire. I didn’t take it. Um, but as I said, I’m okay with that, but I would advise single earners, especially to, to, uh, make sure they, they plan their best financial retirement.

Apart from that, make sure we have a network of friends. Um, this, this may sound a little odd or strange, but, um, what I have found is that being a foreigner, being an immigrant, first generation immigrant in the UK, um, I’m fairly westernized in [00:24:00] a sense, but still I have gravitated back to my community.

Because most of my good friends now are from my community or my nationality of an Indian background. So somehow we tend to gravitate back to our own, uh, for whatever reason, I can’t explain that, but that is what does happen. So, um, it’s important that we have a network of friends and we know. who our friends will be, uh, because a few people can perhaps live life on their own, within their own four walls.

But most of us need social interaction, enjoy social interaction, and should keep that just so that we, you know, stay in touch with the world. Otherwise you curl up in a corner and you found five years later, you know, in the corner of your house, that that’s a very sorry thing. So I think it’s important to maintain [00:25:00] good friendships and good relationships, perhaps with your own community.

So we, I have, I have a lot of English friends, um, and international, you know, community friends, but the ones I gravitate to often are, are my, from my community.

Mat: Yeah. Cause you can see how if somebody’s whole existence has very much been wrapped in their medical world, you know, the, the, the colleagues at work, the people you meet at conferences, um, and then all of a sudden overnight, all of that disappears.

then who are your friends? You know, where, where, where’s your community? Who do you talk?

Nitin: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. One day they are your so called friends, but the next day when you stop going to meetings to your department, they’re not there. They’re not there for you. So you need to make sure that you have a good network of friends.

Mat: And the reality is that that happens because, you know, you only need to think of You know, people that are early in their career, you know, you do a six month job, you move on, you never see those [00:26:00] people again, you know, you, you, you lived and breathed with them and, you know, sort of, you know, you, you, you fought with them and tried to keep the patients alive.

And, you know, and you have that really strong, if you think when people rotate through, you know, four months, six months, a year, two years, and then, then they disappear and you don’t see those people again, do you? So, I mean, there’s something there about the importance of keeping in touch. And I don’t know sort of what you’re like about, but I think I’m terrible at that because I say I must contact so and so, but then, you know, stuff moves on.

And I kind of think, oh, you know, I loved working with that person. You know, we used to go out and we used to do all of these things. And then, then the world moves on. And they disappear. And then I guess the danger then is you retire and there’s a huge chunk of people that you knew that you were friendly with, but you never kept in touch with, and all of a sudden, you know, those, the, the automatic interactions that happen to go network just disappear.

Nitin: Two, two more things [00:27:00] I’d like to mention are our physical health and our mental health. So physical health is important and we must do something to keep ourselves fit and well. So. Going for long walks, having some light gym workouts, nothing too strenuous and looking after one’s mental health, which does play play on our minds.

I mean, it does affect me to some extent, my mental health. is, is, uh, something that can be prone to, uh, getting into trouble. Um, just because, like I said, you had such a busy life and now you have a fairly empty life. Uh, what do you do with your time? Uh, you know, that, that is what, uh, we need to, uh, think about and plan for that.

And one can do that by having reading or writing as a hobby. And, and, uh, I haven’t read much recently, but I do try and write a bit, [00:28:00] uh, which I do from time to time, getting my thoughts out on, on, on a paper or onto a laptop. Uh, and, and it does, does help. It is quite, uh, cathartic and therapeutic, I would say.

Mat: Maybe if I could bring us to a close and ask you to summarize what would be your top tips for doctors at work?

Nitin: I was thinking that. One should live, one should love, one should let live and be thankful.

Mat: That sounds great. Thank you very much Nitin.

Nitin: If we did those few things, life is, would be perfect. Thank you.

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