September 19, 2023

Embracing New Horizons at Sixty: A Journey of Joy and Challenges

Life is a journey of surprises and adventures. In the emergency department, we are surrounded every day by the unexpected turns of events that our patients face. Sometimes, change is intentional, pre-planned, and calculated. Other times, change catches us completely by surprise, and we roll with the punches. For me, it felt like the change was coming, and the timing felt right. So, at the age of sixty, I decided to take my life for an unexpected turn and change jobs. I made the decision with both excitement and trepidation; I loved where I was, and it was comfortable and safe. But I also had an inner voice tell me that I somehow needed to move on and experience something new. In this heartfelt article, I share the joys and hurdles I experienced during this transformative phase of my career, as well as tips I have learned along the way. My hope is to inspire fellow women emergency physicians to fearlessly embrace new beginnings.

Three Joys

  1. Rediscovering My Passion: Transitioning to a new job has breathed new life into my passion for emergency medicine. The opportunity to learn and grow in a different setting reminded me of the spark that ignited my love for this noble profession decades ago.
  2. Embracing Professional Growth: The decision to embark on a new path at sixty gifted me with unexpected opportunities for professional growth. At my old job, I had worked in a single person coverage setting for almost a decade. Now, my new location has me interacting with so many of my colleagues in this specialty of emergency medicine. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed working with other people than myself in the department.
  3. Becoming a Mentor: With years of experience under my belt, I found immense joy in being a mentor to our younger colleagues. Sharing my knowledge about ACEP, AAWEP, and our state chapter is incredibly rewarding and leaves a lasting impact on us both.

Three Hurdles

  1. Adapting to Change: Adjusting to a new environment has proven to be more challenging than I anticipated. The EMR and other workplace dynamics were different from what I had grown accustomed to, and it took time to adapt. It was stressful trying to re-learn the names of the nurses and the room locations, not to mention getting to know the new hospitalists and specialists. I also had to adjust to a different ultrasound machine, to different procedural kits, and orthopedic devices.
  2. Navigating Workplace Culture: Understanding and integrating into a new workplace culture was an uphill climb. Growing accustomed to different norms and values while preserving my own principles can be a delicate balance to strike. And yet, this change provided me with new perspectives on what I valued most and where I placed my own priorities.
  3. Balancing Work and Life: Starting anew required significant time and effort, which challenged my work-life balance. I now had a longer commute time, but that was offset by my shorter shifts overall. While it can be frustrating at times, it also created a space where I could keep my work and personal life separate. At the time of this transition, I had been crushed by the tsunami wave of burnout. But with this change, I began to ride the wave instead, and I realized that my personal pursuits and commitments to my family have become more important to me than ever before.

Three Tips

  1. Research and Preparedness: Thorough research about the new workplace and its culture proved invaluable in easing my transition. Equipping myself with knowledge prepared me mentally and emotionally and helped me navigate uncertainties more confidently.
  2. Seek Support: My family, friends, and professional mentors were my lifelines during this transformative phase. Their encouragement and guidance provided the strength I needed to overcome obstacles.
  3. Embrace Lifelong Learning: My insatiable thirst for knowledge and continuous search of opportunities for education and training kept me relevant and excited about my new journey.

Changing jobs at sixty has been an incredible adventure that allowed me to rekindle my passion and grow as a professional. Though it came with its share of challenges, the rewards were immense. My personal journey taught me that age is no barrier to embracing new horizons and that the pursuit of passion knows no bounds. To all my fellow women emergency physicians, I encourage you to seize opportunities, overcome fears, and embark on new beginnings with a heart full of hope and a spirit that knows no limits.

Alexandra Thran, MD, FACEP

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