I've been practicing pathology for about 6 years, after 4 years of medical school and 6 years of training. Cases that I used to pore and sweat over have become routine. Sure, there are always cases to challenge your brain, share with your colleagues, or send out for expert consultation, but after 6 years I have cruised into a "more comfortable" zone. I can triage efficiently, and getting called to radiology for wet preps or to the OR for frozen sections is no longer a paralyzing experience (for the most part). The wall I built around myself, the mask of confidence hiding insecurity, has slowly come down. I can relax and banter with my colleagues while deciding if there is cancer on the slide or not. I think this is true of all pathologists that are a few years in - I laugh when I think back to what I agonized over during my first two years in private practice.
Last year the partner in charge of CAP (College of American Pathology) lab inspections retired. I volunteered to take his place, as a team leader. We are in charge of lab inspections for three hospitals - every two years each hospital assembles a team to lead an inspection. I did my first one last November - whew it was a blur. I had a veteran compliance officer leading me through. "Even a blind pig can find an acorn every once in a while," I kept thinking as I went through that inspection. I was prepared, but shell shocked by the strange experience. This time she is on vacation. I am in charge. Luckily I am leading a brilliant, experienced team that will make my job much easier.
I became a pathologist to hide behind a microscope. With a few exceptions, such as being interviewed on TV with the Swine Flu breakout, I've been able to maintain my anonymity. Lab inspections fly in the face of anonymity. I interview the hospital CEO's, the lab directors, the medical Chief's of Staff. The team has specific information to mine and report in a very short amount of time. We summarize our findings in a large room at the end of the day. Then we go out to dinner and celebrate a hard day's work. That's the part I'm looking forward to.
I find, as I am preparing for this inspection, that I am grateful for new challenges and experiences to shake me up. It's what got me here in the first place, but it's easy to forget when it becomes, all too soon, remote. And as the butterflies circle in my stomach as I am going to sleep, I wonder and hope that my fellow MiM's also have new experiences to keep them from banality and boredom. They must. It's a part of the job description.
So if you are reading this today, wish me silent luck. I'm inspecting.