Tuesday, January 15, 2008

something's gotta give

I got an urgent page yesterday from the Education Office because they got word from the ABA (The American Board of Anesthesiology, that is) that I hadn't yet applied to take the Written Boards for this summer. The final deadline, apparently, was today. There had been an earlier deadline in mid-December which I missed on purpose, because Joe's match was right around the same time, and I didn't want to register to take the Boards in New York before knowing whether or not we would be moving to Atlanta. Afterwards, figuring I'd have to pay a late fee now anyway, I'd been kind of dragging my heels, with the idea that I would register eventually, when I had things more sorted out. What I didn't know, probably because I didn't really check, was that the late deadline for registering for the Written Boards was only one month later, on January 15th.

"I'll take care of it," I told the people at the education office, but since I was on call last night until fairly late, I didn't really get a chance to sit down and look the registration info until late this morning. Turns out the Boards are in August this year--August 4th, to be precise, which will be basically a few days after I move me and Cal and all our stuff to Atlanta. I thought about what else was going to be happening in the few weeks prior to the Boards, and felt suddenly like I was looking down the barrel of a gun.

Joe will most probably be moving to Atlanta several weeks ahead of me and Cal, as his fellowship (like most things in academic medicine) begins on July 1st, and I will still have three weeks of maternity leave to make up, to fulfill my requirements for graduation. During these three weeks, I will no doubt be taking a good deal of call, as I will be the most senior resident in the department, and besides, none of the new first-year residents are allowed to take call the first month, since they don't know enough to be left alone for any period of time. Most likely what will happen is that we will pack all our stuff up in a moving van and send it off around the time that Joe leaves for Atlanta--Joe will drive down with a carload of stuff and Cooper, and Cal and I will shack up at my parent's house for a few weeks. In the weeks preceding, I imagine there will be a good deal of packing, of planning, of living in chaos and partially filled cardboard boxes purloined from the supermarket. A real low-stress environment, you know. In addition, the final manuscript of "Scutmonkey" will be due to my editor by the beginning of July, so there's that hanging over my head around the same time too. And you know, that's all fine, I can do that, I plan to do all of that. But when I started thinking about having to study for the Boards at the same time--and I mean really studying, final month studying, med school level studying--I just didn't see how I could do all of those things and expect to do them all well.


I thought about it. I had been tossing this idea around for a while, but having that deadline right in my face really forced my hand. I went to talk it over with my residency director, and in the end, I made a decision. 

I'm not going to take my Boards this August. I'm going to take them next year, in August of 2009. It will not affect my Board eligibility, and it will not adversely affect the residency program ("I mean, unless you fail," my residency director found it necessary to point out, to which I replied that the whole point was that I wanted to minimize my chances of failing by actually giving myself a fighting chance to study for the damn thing), and it won't really make a difference in finding a short-term anesthesia job, or even in the long run, provided that I eventually take and pass the exam. I know that for my own ease, it's ideal to take the Boards straight out of residency, and that I might have to study extra hard just to keep on top of my academics and skills if I take that extra year, but in the end, the decision was easy, and a pop-off valve of sorts. I have many things happening that summer that I need to do. This is the one thing that could wait.

Could I have taken the Boards this August? Sure. People do. People have kids and move and have all sorts of outside responsibilities and still take their Boards the summer after residency. And really, I could take it this August. And, you know, I could probably pass it too. But I just think that I'd be stretching myself much, much too thin. I think it wouldn't be healthy, and I'd really be killing myself and sacrificing other things for no good reason at all. So I made a decision. Occasionally one reaches a branch point in life where something's gotta give, and this time around, it's this exam. Next time, it'll be something else.

I've made this decision, and after talking it over with The Powers That Be and realizing that it's not going to RUIN my career, it's really kind of a relief. And I hope that it continues to be, because as I mentioned, the final deadline for registration is today, so I can't really change my mind after this. Oh well.