A urologist on why the time is right to let go

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"It is the right time and I have been fortunate to have such great people to work with locally and nationally," a urologist writes.

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"I have good insight and know my surgical results. Yet, I intend to step away from the operating room and patient care soon," writes a urologist.

For me, letting go isn’t hard. And that’s not because I haven’t found surgery and patient care to be enormously rewarding, interesting, and challenging. Many clinicians toward the end of their career scale back to office work, minor surgery, and teaching. Nothing wrong with that—we’re all wired differently—but that’s not for me. I always intended to continue performing major surgery until the end of my career. Fortunately, I don’t think my surgical skills have slipped. It is inevitable that they would at some point, but I am in a situation with enormous amounts of feedback and scrutiny. I have good insight and know my surgical results. Yet, I intend to step away from the operating room and patient care soon.

I often make up things as I go along. I never had any plan that I would retire at some defined point. I decided that I would play it by ear and retire when the time seemed right. That is now, and I feel as if I have timed it perfectly. I still consider it a tremendous privilege and challenge to perform surgery, and there can be few rewards as satisfying as a patient doing well. The other side of the coin is also familiar and takes a toll but is, fortunately, relatively infrequent. I had considered retiring a few years ago as I had a lot of adventure travel lined up. Other circumstances, plus COVID-19, derailed that. I didn’t want to sit home making sourdough bread and watching “Tiger King,” so continuing with my surgical practice was natural.

So, why now? I have kept up a major surgical practice beyond what is most typical, but there is nothing or no one forcing my hand. I have never considered that my identity nor self-esteem were tied to being a surgeon, so I have no concerns about feeling “irrelevant.” I will miss daily interaction with my colleagues. Also, many of my patients have become friends whom I will no longer see, but there are still lots of challenges remaining. I have no worries about having enough to do or finding stimulation. No one wants to hear about how fulfilling my practice was and I don’t need to dwell on it. It is the right time and I have been fortunate to have such great people to work with locally and nationally. They will remain friends but may not recognize me in something other than a scrub suit.

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