Shedding My Skin: Yet Another Lesson From One of My Radiology Copilots

August 15, 2018

A hot radiology job market may make this the time for professional change.

Longer-term readers of this column will recall that I’ve had (and continue to have) a series of critters who prowl around me while I do my teleradiology work from the comfort of a home office. Several felines, ferrets, and most recently a pooch.

One might accuse me of giving one member of the menagerie short shrift, as he’s been around longer than the dog and two of the cats. In fairness to me, however, he hasn’t actually been hanging out in the same room as my radiology workstation. He spends most of his time in an oversized aquarium, a couple rooms away.

No, he’s not a fish, so I suppose I could have called his enclosure a terrarium. He’s a corn snake, named Crikey (named by a fan of the late Steve Irwin). Still, he’s a member of the household, and it’s only fitting he be accorded the same status of “copilot” as the furry quadrupeds. Especially since, in recent times, he’s demonstrated a skill relevant to my professional situation that the others just don’t have.

Snakes, as the reader presumably knows, periodically shed their skins. In fact, Crikey just did so, the day prior to this writing. They’re far from alone in this routine of molting their entire outer covering at once (as opposed to the dog and especially cats, who do a far less-tidy job of constantly shedding bits of hair all over the place). Critters with exoskeletons, for instance hermit-crabs, also eventually grow to the point that they need to shed their outer coverings and develop new ones (or find them, in the case of the hermits).

I’ve come to think of a lot of the longer-term situations we humanfolk get ourselves into as being similar. Metaphorical skins, if you will. They can feel like parts of us, and can become how we (or others) define ourselves. But what initially feels normal, fitting, and/or enjoyable can, in the fullness of time, come to feel otherwise. The realization can be gradual or sudden, just as one’s determination to do something about it.

Shedding a skin, after all, takes some time and effort, and there is a certain vulnerability, even discomfort, that can follow (Crikey gets sensitive and skittish immediately afterwards, avoiding physical contact).

Our metaphorical skin-shedding can be any number of things: Ditching bad habits (or adopting good ones), pruning portions of our social circles, or changing our professional situations.

The latter doesn’t have to be as drastic as leaving one’s job or ending one’s owner/partner stake in a business (such as a radiology group). It can simply be changing one’s role, such as going from associate to partner, full-time to semi-retired, etc.

In my case, however, the skin-shedding is indeed a matter of job-changing. Longer-term readers might remember that I first took on my current gig about 7 years ago (cue “7-year itch” quips). Lots of things change in that stretch of time. The state of the radiology job-market and healthcare overall, to start with. On a much smaller scale, my skill-set, my opinions, and I’d like to imagine my overall wisdom. One grows, and if one’s circumstances (skin, to further hammer away at the metaphor) don’t grow in similar fashion, a change might eventually be in order.

I’ll hasten to add that this is not a matter of “they done me wrong, so I’m leaving.” Heaven knows, some of my previous jobs did behave pretty crummily, and it felt delightful to leave them behind me, but that’s not the case here. If we were to wind back the clock 7 years and I knew everything I know now, I’d still sign the same contract without hesitation. It was the right move at the time, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had done otherwise. My current move is, instead, a matter of a really good, can’t-pass-up opportunity crossing my path.

So, my next few columns will be something of a miniseries. Much as I once had several blogs discussing my entry and adaptation to the teleradiology world (“Memoirs of a teleradiologist,” I called them), I might as well give these the collective heading of “Shedding my skin.” There are a few wrinkles regarding changing one’s gig, after all, especially in the hot radiology job-market we’re enjoying. Perhaps one or two facets will be of interest to others in the same process, or considering it.