I packed up my office yesterday. I would like to say it was a bittersweet parting, but it was sweet, sweet, sweet. This move was so different than the one last year. Last year marked the end of eight years of ownership and administration of a private medical practice. I was a partner. The practice broke up because my other female partner left. She had had enough of the trials of running a practice, and of the politics in this town and she found another job. We had both been considering leaving. We had discussed it. We knew it was only a matter of time until somebody did. So last year we folded up the corporation, because I was the only remaining partner. I joined the hospital’s Ob/Gyn practice as an employee because I was tired of running a business too.
Last year’s move was different. It felt like a sort of failure. I had to leave my bright corner office and move into a windowless room. I was joining two women with whom I had shared call, but they were the best of buddies and were used to working with each other. I was an unwelcome intrusion. I can truthfully say, that after a year, I still didn’t really fit in. My nurse and I were stuck off to the side, an afterthought, while the two other doctors, their nurses and the ultrasound tech sat in the central area and chattered merrily away. Sometimes we were briefly included in a conversation. Mostly we just talked to each other. I didnt even use the office I moved into. With our computerized medical records system, we were chained to laptops just inside of the exam rooms. My nurse actually had a bigger area than I did.
So moving the office last year then, was just that, moving an office. I didn’t have any anticipation of happiness when I moved, although I had hoped. I got rid of some stuff, and just moved the rest down the hall into the new office. The office was much smaller than the old one. I tried to make it a home; I covered the door and walls with drawings and notes from my daughter, and funny clippings I had saved over the years. It was always cold in there. My plants died because there was no sun, and because I didn’t think to water them much because I was never in there.
A lot of politics happened over the year. A big hospital conglomerate came and bought both hospitals in town. They completely shut down our sweet little labor and delivery unit and moved all the nurses and all the deliveries to the bigger, drabber hospital across town. Then they put the three of us docs into the call rotation with the four-man group across town. We didn’t like having to go all the way across town. They didn’t like us. We didn’t like them. We had to learn an entirely new hospital system. Call for seven Ob/Gyn doctors was very busy.
My husband and I had been discussing my getting part-time work for a while. This year we decided to make it a reality. It just seemed like the right time. I was so unhappy, and things were just getting worse. So we made it happen. My husband sold our airplane because my part-time work would not allow us to pay for it comfortably. I joined a locum tenens company to do travel doctoring, which had always been my dream. I turned in my notice. Everyone was shocked that I was leaving. I enjoyed the biggest, most stable practice in town, because I had been practicing there for so long. And I was letting it all go.
I happily counted down the days to the end of that miserable job. As of this writing, my last day is February 14, 2013. So this weekend, I cleaned out my office. This time I really cleaned it out. I got rid of tons of books and papers that I didn’t use. I shredded pounds of confidential paperwork, because I had been Chief of Staff of the old hospital. I went to the U-Haul place and bought boxes and boxed everything up. As I packed boxes, I had memories of my time at the hospital. I defrosted the mini refrigerator. It had been a gift when I first arrived, in 2003. One of the office staff said, “It’s for you, as long as you don’t ever leave us.”
I packed up an entire box of breakable collectibles. I collect storks, and things related to pregnant women. I packed up the Lladro storks I had bought on a trip to Jamaica. I packed up a beautiful ceramic female Ob/Gyn in scrubs, holding up a baby, that my mom had bought me. I packed up ceramic babies, and an entire Willow family of pregnant women, and women and familes with babies. I packed up gifts from my nurse and my patients. And I packed stuffed animals. Scooby Doo with scrubs on. Little Beanie Baby doctors. A “Histo”-potamus my friend the pathologist gave me as a joke. Stuffed pregnant bears. Stuffed storks with babies in blankets.
I packed files of letters and cards from my patients. I read some of them, and thought about how I would miss those patients, and they would miss me. I packed files of cartoons that my mom has clipped for me over the years, all about doctors and babies and Ob/Gyns. I left the bulletin boards with the pictures of my babies on the walls. Those belong to the practice now. People like to find their baby pictures when they come to the office. No point in taking them away from their families.
So I packed up boxes full of memories, most of them good. They were all from a brighter time, before I came to the new practice. And as I packed, I felt liberated. And overjoyed. I was leaving this town, which I never liked. I was leaving this practice, which had completely failed to welcome me. I was leaving the politics, and the ridiculous unwieldiness of the merging of two hospitals and two practices. I was free! Free to travel from state to state, meet new doctors and nurses and patients and different kinds of people! Free to spend time with my family! Free from the endless grind of working every day, in the same unhappy job. Free from being shipped across town, to a hospital that I didn’t know. I can’t remember the last time I felt so happy and free. I am anxious, of course, about the changes to come, but they are my changes. They are not being foisted upon me. I am free to determine my own destiny. For the first time in years, I feel real. And whole. And alive.