I've been away from the arctic northeast for five days and have been staying at the same place in Florida that we used to come when I was a kid. This place is full of good memories, and a lot of the same stuff is still here: same pools, same theme parks (though they changed a bunch of stuff at Epcot which I'm planning to write whoever is in charge at Disney about). Yet, I still find myself stalking the overnight signout email from work, and logging into our electronic record to see how my patients from last week are doing.
I even texted my resident a few times just to see how the service and the house staff team were doing.
It's a perpetual state of limbo. When I'm at work, a slice of my attention is always with my family at home. I think this happens with anyone, any job. It was worse when I was a resident: at one point, my son, two years old at the time, asked without a hint of a joke, 'daddy, where do you live?' It's better now, because I have the support of the house staff who are willing to sacrifice their time for the sake of our patients.
And...when I'm at home, at Target, on vacation, a piece of my attention is in the hospital. It's absurd: I tell myself it's righteous, that it's because I've made a commitment, but mostly it's a way to hide. A way to never be fully anywhere.
Not only is it not fair to whichever people I'm with at the time (patients or family), it cheapens both contexts. Even if something was happening on service while I was away, what the heck do I think I can do about it? I would love to believe I'm so important, but I'm totally not.
I was having coffee with a visiting professor a few months ago and he told me he's stopped taking any work home at all. His efficiency and creativity at work both improved, because it gave him a reasonable boundary to work within.
I'll probably always bring a piece of home to work with me, but I think a lesson from this vacation is to leave more of work at work, and when I'm at work, lean hard into it so I don't feel like I need to let it bleed over into all 24 hours of my day.
I think it could make me better in both places.