Many psychologists get into the profession with a goal of advocacy – advocacy for their clients, for the advancement of psychological science, for knowledge mobilization and for ending the stigmas surrounding mental health. Whether this advocacy is explicit or implicit, it is a universal impetus for people who dedicate their lives to helping others.
That motivation to be of service to others does not end when a career ends. Retirement from the profession of psychology does not necessarily mean retirement from advancing good causes. In fact, it might provide more time to tackle those challenges, or even illuminate new causes to champion.
Such is the case for Juanita Mureika and Dawn Hanson, Co-Chairs of the Psychologists and Retirement Section of the CPA. Juanita retired as a school psychologist in 2011, but remains active in the New Brunswick political arena. She spent much of 2021 pushing against Bill-35, which included a decision by the New Brunswick government to take student assessments out of the hands of school psychologists and allow teachers to perform those assessments instead.
Dawn recently retired as the Chair of the Manitoba Association of School Psychologists, but stays active and involved with the recently proposed Bill-64. The bill would do away with all school boards, to have more of a central authority in government in Winnipeg. She says,
“We, as an organization [the Manitoba Association of School Psychologists], are always tracking anything that could impact psychological services in Manitoba, particularly as it pertains to school children and families. I can’t imagine – retired or not – not being involved in these burning questions and issues. We’ve been very involved in trying to shape a new College of Psychologists in Manitoba. Our school psychologists have not been part of the regulatory body before now. So now with the opportunity of a new college coming in, we’ve been working for many years trying to create representation within that college.”
For Juanita, Dawn, and the Psychologists and Retirement Section as a whole, advocacy does not end with retirement. And retirement itself actually creates further areas where advocacy can be very important. Retired psychologists across Canada are very concerned about regulations in their respective provinces for how long files are to be kept. In one province the rule is that files must be kept secure for fifteen years – but if your client is a school-aged child, then those files must be kept secure for fifteen years after the year when that child reaches the age of majority. Dawn says,
“This is very onerous for psychologists who have to somehow find a way to store and maintain these files securely, sometimes for decades! For Juanita and I, most of our practice has been within a school setting, so when we retire from our job, it’s not our problem any more. The school must keep those files safe and secure in line with what is required either by the regulatory body or the province.”
Neither Dawn nor Juanita are affected by this issue, but here they are championing the cause nonetheless. The Psychologists and Retirement Section has sent out a survey to all other regulatory bodies across Canada, including the Territories, to determine what the issues were regarding confidentiality, file retention, informed consent, and more. As of the writing of this article, the responses from those groups are still coming in – slowly. So far, the one thing that is clear is that the regulations, policies, and practices governing file retention vary wildly from one province to another.
Imagine you’re closing your psychology practice and retiring. In addition to a massive number of electronic files, you also have reams of physical paper files that you must keep secure for a further fifteen years. It is likely impractical, not very secure, and possibly illegal for you to keep them in your basement. Are you going to pay for 15 years at a storage locker, on what is now a fixed retirement income? What are your options and how can you go about doing this? And who, depending on where those files are stored, will insure them?
Dawn and Juanita are on the case. It may take a while to procure answers, as every step along the way there is another wrinkle thrown in. Says Juanita,
“Another thing we now have to consider is that many provinces require a professional will if you’re going to retire. So those files will become someone else’s problem if you retire, or if you die. But not all provinces require that. There’s always something new. But if you think about medical or dental records, those are kept for a very long time and so should psychological records be kept a long time. It’s just a little overwhelming for people who think ‘how long will this go on?’”
Juanita, Dawn, and the Psychologists and Retirement Section may be retired as psychologists, but are increasingly involved in advocacy. Within school boards, provincial policies, and the section itself there are multiple opportunities to shape systems for the better. They are going to keep pushing forward on the issues that are important – for retirees, for school psychologists, and for everyone else.