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Looking Forward to Life Beyond the OR?

A large number of perioperative nurses are nearing the end of their career and are looking forward to life after retirement, where they can focus on family and *gasp* themselves.

If you are a nurse who is 55 or older, and are beginning to think about retirement, you should ask yourself a few initial questions to see if you’re ready and how you should prepare for the transition, according to Phyllis Quinlan, PhD, RN-BC, a practicing nurse and professional coach known to the nursing community as Dr. Phyllis.

Are You Financially Ready?

Think about how much money you are contributing to your retirement because after age 55 you can put in more money.

How is Your Health?

Consider if it is time for that knee or hip replacement and ask yourself if it’s time to take off those extra 20 pounds.

What Do You Need to Do to Age Gracefully in Your Job?

Perhaps you can transition to less physically taxing work in the perioperative field, such as education. You may also want to consider work in another nursing field you can age into.

If you are thinking about retiring in the next 12–18 months, you should also consider the options for succession planning and begin preparing qualified colleagues to fill your shoes when you are ready. It’s never too soon to start mentoring the future you.

Life Beyond the OR

As much time as you spend thinking about the transition out of the daily grind of the OR, it’s equally important to have a plan for what you want your life to look life once you leave work. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps people 50 and older improve the quality of their lives, recommends several smart moves to achieve your retirement goals, including:

  • Wait until age 70 to start taking social security benefits to avoid losing out on all that is owed to you.
  • Consider part-time work in retirement for spending money and the chance to contribute to a Roth IRA.
  • Be realistic in planning for short-term and long-term health care costs.
  • Consolidate retirement accounts to simplify finances.
  • Be wary of scams and take proactive efforts to secure financial security.

Beyond planning for the administrative details of retirement, spend equal time planning for sound mental health once you leave full-time nursing. “Make regular deposits into your friendship bank just as you would into your retirement account—deep reserves aren’t just for 401(k)s,” advises Elizabeth O’Brien in a guest blog post to Dr. Quinlan’s blog at O’Brien says the best way to make such deposits is to follow your interests and volunteer your time.

If you think volunteering to share your perioperative expertise might be of interest, there are a number of ways to make this happen with AORN. You can serve as a subject matter expert, commit time to work on an AORN committee, run for a position on AORN’s board of directors or work with AORN Journal to write articles or serve as a reviewer. 

Often nurses end up taking time in retirement to care for elderly parents. Make sure to set realistic goals if you will take on caregiving after retirement and don’t take on too much by yourself, according to Amy Goyer’s Top Tips for Caregivers featured on She suggests several strategies to prevent caregiver burnout, including: building a caregiving team with family and community, connecting with other caregivers, and finding online tools to organize important information such as financials and medication.

Giving is an inherent quality nurses possess and this doesn’t end with retirement. “It is vital that those who give so much spend the time necessary to keep the deep well that they give from full,” Dr. Quinlan stresses. Find inspiration and advice to care for yourself by checking out Dr. Quinlan’s blog Caring is a Delicate Balance.

Get more tips on Planning for Retirement at