Contemplating Retirement

Psychiatric Times, Vol 39, Issue 10,

"Patients get better, treatments end..."

Patients get better, treatments end,

openings appear in my schedule

and I leave them open, like my window

in May when a seductive spring breeze

reminds me how much I want warmth’s

embrace. I let my mind wander to new meds

I need to master, CME credits to earn,

the effort of starting with someone new—

telephone screening, establishing trust

and rapport, history-taking’s excavation,

responsibility’s weight, all the risks,

prior auths, and plagues of electrons

when IT systems change and a Help Desk

ticket is my only source of support.

Last week I changed my voicemail greeting

to declare I’m not accepting new patients,

but people don’t want to believe me—


No one is taking on new patients

and I’m really depressed. Call me

when you have an opening.

I’ll pay out of pocket.


Please put me on your waiting list.

I’m available any time YOU have time.

I’ve heard you’re really good,

so I’ll wait as long as I have to.


And the most perceptive caller,

sensing the ambivalent note in my voice,

asks what I’ve been asking myself—

So, you say you’re not taking new patients.

Is that just for now, or is it forever?

Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 24 years in Psychiatric Times™ the “Poetry of the Times” column. He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. His latest book is Freud on My Couch.