Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

Retirement is not for everyone. Exhibit A is my father, who enjoyed retirement from being a school superintendent for about five minutes before he became a part-time consultant. Exhibit B is a long-term care executive I know who will be carried out on a gurney before giving up control of his domain.

While the former reflects a personal choice, the latter is reflective of what a new study from Witt/Kieffer indicates: There’s a lack of succession planning in healthcare.

That report, Future Plans for Transitioning Out of the C-Suite: A Confidential CEO Survey, says that 75% of healthcare CEOs between ages 55 to 59 have no current plans to retire or are at least five years away from retirement.

The reason is largely because most of the survey respondents felt the organization is “not prepared for their departure.”

That’s probably true. But whose fault is that?

It is always tempting to secretly believe that your organization will fall apart without you. (Certain members of my family, including moi, can be seen surreptitiously checking their work email while on vacation. What immediate crisis we are hoping to solve while in the middle of Missouri with limited Wi-Fi access is beyond me.) Of course, the uncertain economic environment also has caused some executives in all fields to want to hang on until their stock portfolio rebounds. Or maybe until one can finish helping his 25-year-old graduate-student son find himself. (A day that might never come).

There’s also a not-unreasonable fear that developing a formal succession plan may be seen as having one foot out the door, which is probably why less than 40% of the survey respondents said they were working with their board of directors on that type of plan.

What’s also discouraging is that only one-third of the respondents said they were mentoring a successor.

There’s been a push by groups, such as the American College of Health Care Administrators, to promote mentoring. But it’s not enough. Much as how responsible people create a will or communicate what they would like following their deaths, healthcare CEOs have a responsibility to consider the life of their organization without them.

Training the next generation of long-term care leaders, and investing some time to envision the future of your company, can be your greatest legacy. And people will remember you far more fondly than if you’re wheeled out from the job feet first.