During my fifteen years as a health educator and project manager for a large HMO, I met frequently with the physicians, managers and medical staff in their offices. Sometimes these were formal meetings, and sometimes I just dropped by to run through an idea or check out a procedure. Perhaps we met to work on a new outreach program. Or perhaps I gave an in-service about the databases we used to track patients with chronic conditions. Even though the doors between the waiting areas and the offices and exam rooms were locked, many of the receptionists recognized me and buzzed me in when I waved to them.
I loved my job and the camaraderie.
Upon retirement, one of the most difficult adjustments was the loss of that sense of belonging, of being an integral part of the medical community. Nowadays, when I go to the clinic for a visit with my physician, I am just one of the hundreds of anonymous patients passing through each day, restricted to the patient side of the waiting room doors, no longer allowed access to the inner sanctum of offices and exam rooms unless accompanied by the medical assistant.
To combat this loss, I began volunteering and finding other places where I could go behind the doors closed to the public. Both the local animal rescue shelter and hospice welcomed me and my organizational and computer skills. At hospice I became an integral part of the team and enjoyed bonding with my new colleagues.
Over time, being anonymous at the medical center no longer brought an ache to my heart, although it is still gratifying to see them using the forms I developed during my career there.
And I will always be grateful to my physician who, after I retired, took pains to catch me up on the latest events and gossip during my annual wellness exam, helping me still feel connected to the community I worked in for so many years.