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Work After Retirement? These RTs Say Yes!


By Debbie Bunch

February 12, 2024

People in their 20s and 30s generally don’t give retirement much thought beyond contributing to their 401k or other retirement fund. But by the time folks reach their 40s and 50s they are not just socking money away for retirement, they are salivating at the thought of never having to go into work ever again.

And sure, lots of people who reach retirement age are fine to close the door on their career and move on to other things in life. But for an increasing number, retirement from full-time work doesn’t really mean retirement from work completely, nor do they want it to. Because when it comes right down to it, retirement leaves many at loose ends, and for those who enjoyed the jobs they had, that can feel more like a loss than a gain.

Luckily for people in respiratory care, opportunities to work part-time after retirement abound. We talked to seven therapists who decided to go down that path to find out why they did it and how it’s working out for them.

Carving out a niche

For Michael Holbert, RPFT, the journey to a post-retirement career began when he was hired as a contractor for a company that manages quality control on research projects. It was a job he could do from home, and it was great while it lasted. But when the work began to slow down, he decided to turn back to the specialty he’d carved his career out of for 29 years.

“I decided to see if I could pick up part-time work doing PFTs in a local clinic,” he said. “That was in 2018. I’ve been working on-call for a local health care system doing PFTs a day or two a week since then.”

Holbert says he initially decided to work part-time after retirement to delay taking Social Security benefits but kept at it even after he took Social Security because he enjoys the contact it gives him with patients and other RTs. And of course, the extra income is nice too.

“The clinics I work for need the back-up, and they are grateful to have me,” he said. “I have the liberty to turn down shifts I don’t want, so my wife and I are free to enjoy plenty of free time.” 

Kevin McCarthy, RPFT, also spent his career in the pulmonary function lab, and similar to Holbert, was able to leverage that experience into a work-from-home job, in his case with a company that uses Overread to evaluate PFT quality by assessing the compliance of the measurement with the current ATS/ERS standards. “It may sound boring, but I actually think it may be the perfect retirement job for a PFT nerd,” he said. “You get to work from home and set your own hours – pretty sweet, very low stress!”

When COVID-19 hit, clinical trials that used the service dropped dramatically and he was set to finally retire for good when he was offered a position on the company’s science team. “Clinical trials are an area of employment that I never thought of but am certainly glad I ran across,” said McCarthy. “I find the work challenging but enjoyable.”   

A passion for cystic fibrosis has kept Lara Lockwood, CRT, in the profession. After 44 years of full-time work, she decided to cut her hours back to PRN status and now works Mondays and Tuesdays in the Cystic Fibrosis Care Center at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, in Winston-Salem, NC, caring for adults and children with the condition.

It’s a job she loves, and she says her patients love the fact that she has kept it. “My cystic fibrosis patients refuse to let me leave,” she said with a smile.

Lockwood has supported the wider cystic fibrosis community as well by helping to create a walk team for the local Great Strides Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis coming up in May, and she continues to teach BSL at the hospital. Possibly her most unique position in retirement, however, is serving as a patient actor for the medical school.

“I have been doing that for the past two years since my semiretirement,” she said. “As you can tell, I enjoy post-retirement RT work and recommend it to everyone. My motto is, if you enjoy what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Filling a need in education

One area of the profession that may be particularly lucrative for post-retirees is education. RT programs often need additional faculty to teach a course or two, and for therapists who have been full-time faculty members or had other educational experience these jobs may be a perfect solution.

That has been the case for Kerry McNiven, MS, RRT, FAARC. She spent many years as director of clinical education at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT, and when she retired and moved to New Hampshire, she quickly decided she missed it. “I felt a little lost not having students in my life,” she said. “I still wanted to help impact the next generation of respiratory therapists.” 

Of course, being in a new location made it harder to make connections, but she found the right fit for her in the form of the Kettering Review Seminars. “I get to choose when I work, where I work, and I still get to interact with students,” she said. The extra money is nice too, as it allows her to travel, take adult education classes, craft, volunteer for her state society, and volunteer for her community.

Ann Piggott, BBA, RRT, is also back into teaching after retiring from her position as a program director at a two-year technical college in April of last year.  “I just wanted something to do and still love respiratory care and teaching but was ready for a change and to not be the one in charge anymore,” she said. “I work adjunct at the same tech college, doing some tutoring, teaching online courses, and helping the new program director.”

But at just 63, she feels up to the rigors of clinical practice too, so she is also working PRN at the same hospital she has always worked at, and like McNiven, is now working for the Kettering Review Seminars as well. “So, I have three part time jobs, but I get to make my schedule as I want,” said Piggott. “Got a new knee this past summer so figure I can go at least three more years at the bedside, and hopefully will be able to teach Kettering for many more years. I love working with different groups of students each time.”

Part-time jobs in management

Are there post-retirement job opportunities for RTs who have spent most of their careers in management? David Rodriguez, BA, RRT, and Kenneth J. Capek, MPA, RRT, are proof the answer is yes.

After 38 years working in a wide range of hospitals across Texas, mainly in managerial positions, Rodriguez was ready to scale back in 2021 but wasn’t ready to retire completely. So, he decided to step back from his department director role and into a part-time sleep lab coordinator position. Today he works 16 to 20 hours a week setting up home sleep tests and handling DME prescription paperwork and CPAP compliance.

He’s also involved in marketing sleep services for the critical access hospital where the lab is located.

“I truly enjoy my current role as I believe I’m still utilizing skills that promote health care and education to a rural population that often encounters disparities related to access and quality health care,” said Rodriguez. “I would highly recommend other RTs nearing retirement to consider talking to their C-suite about similar opportunities.”

Capek, who will mark 50 years in respiratory care in July, decided to maintain a department director role after retiring from full-time employment, but in his case it’s in a long-term care facility. He says it’s a lot less stressful than the acute care hospital and he enjoys the chance it gives him to stay busy and be productive.

He works about 32 hours a week, which gives him plenty of time to stay active in his professional organizations as well. “I really enjoy my work and contact with colleagues, including new students to older staff,” said Capek.

True professionals

Working in retirement isn’t for everyone, but as these therapists show, it can be a perfect fit for those who aren’t ready to check out completely but are ready to scale back to something that’s a better fit for this time in their lives.

Michael Holbert may have said it best: “There’s a beauty in being able to work for reasons other than economic necessity – giving back to the profession and the community, in a word, as a true professional.”


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