Walk a mile in my shoes. Plenty of teachers would say this to those who teased about the easy money, the long summer vacations, the benefits, the short hours, and not having to worry about driving to work in the snow. A pediatrician might invoke the same invitation when hearing envious comments about the assumed big money with accompanying big car and fancy house, the prestige, the glamour, the country club memberships, the hero/savior potential, and especially those stylish white jackets accented by sparkling stethoscopes and techy otoscopes.
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Maybe it's because our life stories are so similar that I enjoyed reading this book so much. We came from dysfunctional families, paid our own way through college, achieved our dreams, and began our careers, she a pediatrician and me a teacher, with lofty expectations tinged by naivety. What happened in the interim to cause such disillusionment, unhappiness, and fatigue that it propelled a successful, competent pediatrician to leave her profession and leave behind the salary and status she had worked so hard to achieve?
In her career's ensuing years the health care system evolved and changed into a big business with decisions dictated by financial concerns and the insurance companies. Maggie Kozel became a health care provider for clients or customers. Malpractice insurance premiums escalated and continue to escalate to such a degree that after leaving her practice, Kozel couldn't afford to volunteer or work part time because of prohibitively expensive and critically necessary insurance.
Kozel doesn't regret her medical career and enjoyed the stimulating challenges and her roles of healer, counselor, detective, and comforter. However the burdens of escalating responsibilities and the demands on her time and patience, the specter of malpractice lawyers watching her every move, just became too much to bear. Her two daughters were growing up with a mother who was more of a ghost than a constant presence, and she found herself dispensing advice that didn't require a medical degree more than actually practicing medicine.
Still hurting from the sting of angry, unreasonable parents reprimanding her in front of office staff and other patients, Kozell surprised even herself by accepting the offer to teach chemistry in a private girls' school. When other doctors learned of the author's impending career change, they confided to her their own feelings of dissatisfaction, regret, and longing for an escape. Mostly because of financial considerations, they carried on dutifully and suffered their burdens in silence.
The Color of Atmosphere is a wonderful read that draws you into its spell like a needle drawing blood. I felt Kozel's pains and discomforts and in the end supported her decision. Before reading her account I had decided that leaving the medical profession to become a teacher was crazy. Ultimately the changing health care system with its maddening inequalities and complexities propelled this exhausted physician from the profession.
Thanks to Patsy for adding this book so quickly.
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