Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC
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Retired Nurse Information: Phases of Retirement
Financial Advisor, Mark P. Cussen, CFP®, CMFC, AFC in "Journey through the Six Stages of Retirement", divides the process of retirement into stages or phases. The six phases he describes are: pre-retirement, the big day, the honeymoon, disenchantment, building a new identity and moving on. Nurses may move through all six phases consecutively, may move back and forth between phases or might remain in the disenchantment phase for the remainder of their lives. The goal for a successful retirement would be transitioning from pre-retirement to building a new identity and moving on, without experiencing disenchantment.

The First Phase: Pre-retirement

Pre-retirement preparation currently consists primarily of financial planning for the big event. Rarely do nurses consider much beyond that goal simply because we are too busy working, raising children, paying off mortgages, and in some cases caring for elderly parents. Generally, not much attention is paid to anything apart from reaching the financial goal to retire. It is during this phase that a robust education plan covering all aspects of retirement should be implemented.

The Second Phase: The Big Day

This is when all the "fun" stuff happens. The retirement parties, gifts, farewell wishes, smiles and hand shakes. It is a very short stage. The good feeling can also be accompanied by a sense of sadness because we are leaving relationships and the work we have been passionately involved in for decades.

The Third Phase: Honeymoon

The third phase can be described as a honeymoon. This phase will last for as long as the activities planned prior to retirement last. This is the time for celebrating not having to get up at 0500 to go to work, time to spend with relatives and friends, time to travel and more time for activities enjoyed prior to retirement. Moving into this phase can be difficult for those experiencing sadness and a feeling of loss in the second phase.

Many nurses may reach this phase and remain enamored of the freedom from work commitments. They become involved in activities they always wished they had time for and have no feelings of loss. This is what a healthy transition to retirement should look like.

The Fourth Phase: Disenchantment

This is the phase when many nurses feel the loss of identity, loss of usefulness, boredom, loneliness and disillusionment. The other characteristic of this phase is the knowledge that over half your life is now over and you are on the downward slope toward death. During this phase severe depression can develop, particularly in those individuals suffering from depression in the past and those whose identity is strongly related to their career. This is the phase at which many nurses return to the work force on a casual basis. Eventually though, physical incapacity prevails and working in the rigorous profession of nursing is no longer feasible.

The Fifth Phase: Building a New Identity

Once this phase is reached, self-examination questions must be answered such as: "Who am I, now?" "What is my purpose at this point?" and "Am I still useful in some capacity?" New and satisfying answers to these questions must be found if the nurse is to feel a sense of closure from his or her working days. Many nurses cannot achieve this and never truly move beyond this phase.

The Sixth Phase: Moving On

In this phase, routines, identity and roles are becoming established and the retiree may begin to move on in the new phase of life. To reach this phase there is much psychological and social baggage to wade through first. Unfortunately, many never reach this phase. From my perspective, the more passionate a person is about their career, the more difficult it will be to achieve the goals of this phase.


  • What impact do you think retirement will have on your psychological and social well-being?