For some weeks now, people have been asking me when I’m due to start the new job and then drawing in their breath on hearing that the answer is two days after I finish the old job. So soon! they exclaim. No time off in between? I have to admit to being a bit baffled by this viewpoint; if I didn’t have this job and was simply turning up for my current one as usual on Wednesday, would anyone be amazed that I hadn’t taken some arbitrary break to recuperate?
It’s not time off after this job ends that I’ve been feeling in need of, but time off to catch up before it ends. I had this whole grand plan as to how the final weeks would go – spare moments during days in work would be spent catching up on the things requiring my physical presence (my inbox, my desk, phone calls), and evenings would be spent catching up on letters (we have the GettomyPC programme, which lets us log in in the evenings), thus bringing me to this weekend with only a couple of days’ worth of letters to do, which I would then catch up on over the weekend, leaving me able to walk in on Monday with a clean slate and only having to do whatever came up on Monday before leaving. Which might, of course, still be enough to keep me working late, but at least hopefully not too late. I’m closer to that plan than I’d expected, but it’s been darned hard work.
One hitch has been work’s computer system crashing over the Bank Holiday weekend, putting a severe crimp in my plans to catch up on the long list of letters that had built up over the previous two days. I shrugged at Fate’s vagaries, did as much as I could from memory and from Docman (the system for storing the hospital letters, fortunately separate from the one we use for consultations and not subject to its many nosedives), and determinedly fought the to-do list back down to nothing on the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The other hitch was our drastic current state of understaffedness. On Thursday, I had about twenty minutes to work on clearing my inbox before having to deal with a pile of prescriptions that took over an hour to work through, a morning surgery that went on until almost two in the afternoon, and two visits and multiple phone calls before having to drive over to our branch surgery and start afternoon surgery there almost an hour late. Things then calmed down enough that I did just barely manage to at least get the results and incoming letters looked at before leaving, but I was further from getting everything else cleared than I had been when I started the day.
(This may be an apt moment to mention that it occurred to me recently that I hadn’t actually seen any prospective candidates for my job being shown round or introduced to me at any point, and that the evidence appeared to point to the conclusion that the practice wasn’t actually replacing me. I inquired about this when I ran across the practice manager and assistant manager on the Thursday, and they exchanged somewhat blank glances, apparently trying to remember whether they had at any time in the past three months gone through the process of advertising the job, interviewing prospective applicants, and appointing one to start next week and whether this might simply have temporarily slipped their minds. I think we can take it that this is a ‘no’, so it looks as though my already overworked colleagues are going to have to somehow struggle on with one more full-time member of staff gone, and how in blue bloody blazes the manager and assistant manager imagine that’s going to happen given the current state of affairs I can’t begin to imagine. I’m deeply glad that it will no longer be my problem, but I don’t half feel sorry for the people still there who are somehow going to have to deal with it all.)
On Thursday evening, I logged on and caught up on as many more referral letters as I could (they had built up again during the day. Considerably.) On Friday I got in shortly after seven in the morning, left at almost six in the evening, and spent almost every minute I could squeeze around consultation time in the intervening near-eleven hours on clearing the things I had to clear. And I did it. Just before leaving I made the final phone call that let me drop a message into the pile for shredding, cleared the last few extraneous pieces of paper from the last pile on my desk, and left with five years worth of random bits and pieces in my car and a (relatively) tidy desk. The last was what really brought it home to me; this is it, for real, for good. When I next make that journey home, it’ll be the last time. I logged on again that evening to work through more of the referrals, spent Saturday in a comfortable glow of achievement/haze of sleep deprivation, and logged on on Saturday evening to find the system had crashed again. Of course. I tried to get through to the practice manager several times today, but with no luck, and the assistant manager is on holiday, so the last few referrals remain undone. It’s only twenty or thirty minutes worth of work, but that’s going to be enough to be somewhat annoying if I end up having to do it after work when I’m supposed to be leaving. So be it; quantum in me fuit.
I’ve left the essentials at work, plus the few things that were enough of me that I wanted them to stay right up until the end. The electronic doodad with the photos of the kids on that Barry gave me for my birthday a year or two back; the belatedly hung sunflower picture; my Edward Monkton desk calendar; the miniature globe that I spin to distract fractious babies for the few minutes it takes to listen to their chests; the tube of bubble mixture I used to use for the same purpose (one of the things I’ve stopped doing in recent years, as my life got busier and more rushed); my portable blood pressure cuff, my box of Kleenex, the soap substitute I use to spare my skin, my Vaseline bottle. In a lifetime ruled by extraneous junk I never seem able to clear, it’s good to have a moment in which part of my life is boiled down to its essentials.
I’ve left jobs before; plenty of them. In SHO years, it’s the way things work – a standard training post lasts six months, occasionally a year if you’re really up for commitment. I was an SHO longer than most, rambling around the different specialties to gain experience in as many as I could before settling into GP-dom, and so for years of my life I was starting jobs with the end date already fixed for the not-so-distant future. Then there was my first GP job, where I effectively only found out in retrospect that I’d left. (I went on maternity leave, interviewed successfully for my current job while I was away, got offered the job just before I was due back at the one I had at the time, and went back only to work out my three months’ notice. Since I was working for a PCT and not for an actual practice, they decided not to bother sending me back to the practice I was at just for three months, and sent me to a different one instead, so I found my departure on maternity leave rather unexpectedly converted into a permanent one. I always felt sorry for the many regular patients of mine whom I’d assured in all good faith that I’d be back.) Then there was the three-month post at an understaffed, overworked practice that the PCT had me do to work out my notice and that I left with no regrets whatsoever, and then, of course, there was this one. At a few weeks short of five years, it is (albeit only by a few months) my current record time spent in employment at one place, and the first long-term job I’ve ever left in the foreknowledge that I was going to do so. It has been, for all its faults, a damn good job, and I’ve enjoyed doing it. And now, I’m ready – bar a few remaining referral letters – to leave it and move on to life’s next adventure.