It broke my heart because my life was dedicated to the practice of medicine. Leaving medicine felt like a desertion. A defection. My patients panicked. What would they do now, they wondered. My colleagues steeled themselves to take on the extra work load.
It wasn’t as though I simply got fed up with things, turned in my stethoscope and tongue blades, and slammed the door on my way out of the office. I agonized over the decision for three years...from the first rumblings of discontent, to fierce vacillation, to growing conviction, to the ultimate proclamation, the day I cleared off my desk and said goodbye. I wasn’t impulsive about it at all.
No, what finally got to me was the subversion of the American health care system by self-proclaimed intermediaries who had neither knowledge of nor concern for patient care...
...that and the perpetually long hours that seemed to get longer as I got older. The fact that I’d been running behind schedule all day, every day for thirty years of my life with no chance I’d ever catch up. An oppositional defiant EMR system. A baffling coding and reimbursement system. The ever present threat of litigation. A pharmaceutical industry that invests as heavily in marketing as it does in research. A health insurance industry whose number one priority is corporate profit…not compassionate care. Aggravations that follow physicians through life like a swarm of angry bees.
It wasn't easy to step away, but I had to do it. I had to decide which path to take. One was familiar but I didn't like where it was taking me. The other one--the healing path--led off into the unknown.
But, I had a book in my head that insisted on coming out. Several, in fact. So, writing became my compass. Uphill or down, through sunlight or shadow, I have chosen my path.
It's a good thing we get plenty of practice with life changing decisions over the years because, over time, we acquire a knack for discernment. To marry or not. To have a child or not. To start chemo or not. Will we follow our head or our heart? Will the way lead us to love? To happiness? To fulfillment? Or will it bring us heartbreak? Disappointment? Defeat?
Are you facing a major decision? Will it affect your future? Are you willing to take the risk?
Frost warnings are up tonight. Can winter be far behind?