Well I have gone and done it. Again. Retired from medicine that is.
When your 60th birthday looms large you really should take stock of your life, and medicine adds extra dimensions to this introspection. It is an old, tired story but in my line of work I actually have seen many people work as long as they possibly could....only to have a fatal or life limiting event follow soon thereafter.
But more than that, in a high stress, high liability profession you really should use common sense. There is a point at which the experience and wisdom you have added to whatever innate smarts you had initially begin to be counter balanced by other factors. I don't care how sharp you are or were, staying up all night while making critical decisions gets harder. Like a once great baseball player you can hang on for quite a while - your batting average gradually declining - but should you?
In baseball there would eventually come a day when the Manager would take you aside and have a respectful conversation, telling you that you have had a great run but that your contract would not be renewed next season. In medicine there is no equivalent mechanism, or at least none that is commonly employed. Doctors just keep soldiering on, maybe decreasing call a little, until something happens.
Too often it is a late career lawsuit. I saw my dad go through this and for a gentle man who lived to serve his patients it was a lower circle of Hell for him.
So last December I stopped doing ER work. After an enjoyable winter and spring that kept me busy with robotics and travel I went back to work the summer, just doing a bit of clinic work. It has been pleasant.
But when it is time, it is......time. Step to the edge of the cliff, take a deep breath and jump.
I am now enrolled in Tech College. I figured if I am going to continue to pretend to have abilities in the field of robotics I had better up my game a bit. Machining, computer drafting, more to follow.
Registration was interesting. Hundreds of people in a big room watching a Power Point presentation on financial aid, parking stickers, academic probations and honors. After a bit those of us who were "first timers" went off separately to get logged into the system.
It was mostly kids. Some had parents with them. Even the parents looked younger than me as well they should. I could be the grandfather of some of these youngsters.
I sat next to the only age-contemporary new student and we helped each other through the balky computer enrollment system. At various places there simply was not the proper box to check for a physician-author-archeologist-gadfly to sign up for random classes that he thinks might be interesting. But there are always work arounds, places where a Picard Directive ("Make it So") can be inserted into cleverly hidden seams in the programming.
When I walked out of the place it was much darker than when I walked in. The hot, humid morning air was now brooding with malignant storm clouds. I had parked a couple of blocks away and I could see it was going to be close.
It made for a satisfying metaphor. I was leaving as warning thunder muttered but before any actual storm had broken out. And as I made the final sprint to my car a few spatters of rain came down, bringing with them that indescribable smell of freshness and rebirth.
Career advice for the day. When leaving something always do so before it is too late. And when starting something, same advice.