For myself, being on a leave of absence has allowed me more than sufficient time to process my decision to leave, and I have already begun the process of considering my patients and colleagues and what those goodbyes will entail. In a recent post, I began to delineate those challenges. As for colleagues, maintaining contact is simple. Phone calls, emails, dinner or lunch invitations, the occasional party or professional gathering---those relationships can be maintained like any acquaintance or friendship. Inevitably, time and lack of frequent proximity will preclude frequent contact, with many of those professional but collegial relationships falling by the wayside over time, some more quickly than others.
-How would said individual contact you?
-Will expectations of frequency of contact be considered?
-Why not just say goodbye?
There are dozens of questions to consider, many of which perhaps you, esteemed Reader, could raise (and please do!). This is a conversation worth having!
Those of us in Human Services and the so-called "helping professions" constantly face the issues of boundaries, transference, counter-transference, and projection. When facing the end of a therapeutic alliance, all bets are off and the game becomes simultaneously murkier and much simpler. The path of least resistance? Say "goodbye, nice to know you, have a good life, and thanks for being you". The path of potential complication (but also of richness and authenticity)? "Let's stay in touch and see what our new relationship/friendship is capable of within certain parameters". In all likelihood, most connections made in this way will, like tangential friendships, fizzle out over time. People move, phone numbers change, lives develop through unanticipated twists and turns, address books are lost, and the frequency of contact gradually subsides. Still, the effort was made, and true authenticity was honored.
As Jerome Groopman, M.D. writes so eloquently in his outstanding book, The Anatomy of Hope (and please simply subsitute the word "nurse" for "doctor" as you read):
"There are some patients whom a doctor grows to love. It is a unique type of love, distinct from any other type of love the doctor has experienced before. It moves outside the bounds of the usual doctor-patient relationship; feelings and thoughts are no longer strictly professional and are shared among true friends."
If this area is simultaneously murky and simple, I am certainly still in the murk. And, as I do in many areas of life when I am faced with difficult choices, I remember that age-old adage that I have quoted here on Digital Doorway before: "Don't just do something, sit there." Thus I will sit with these feelings, with this sense of impending and inevitable change, and perhaps, if I am quiet enough, the answer will make itself known.