Before leaving for vacation in December, I devoted a few minutes each day to moving papers off my desk. Copies of consults went to a canvas bag. Stuff that needed to be signed got signed. Some papers got tacked onto my bulletin board. And there were things that I knew I should not discard but had no intention of reading again. These went into a corner. The effort to tidy revealed some useful stuff like writing pads, post-it notes, file folders and blank billing cards. These went in another corner. Pens went in a drawer or a cup and prescriptions went into a drawer. Having been back at my desk a month past my return, the laminate surface had again become invisible. With a half hour of early morning quiet this week, I again sorted papers, finding and separating a few of special importance which went into a folder on the window sill. Things to sign will get signed within a few days. The canvas bag still has room for more copies of consults. And billing cards got filled out to try to keep the disapproving comments from the management from having its usual validity.
As much as I enjoy having a desk and an office with a door tucked into a generally untraveled corner, I do not particularly like working at my desk. Never did. Not since first grade when the left over Halloween candy got stuck in the cubby created for books and papers beneath the desktop, only to be purged in all its stickiness in April. Junior High went well. There was no desk or any kind of personal space other than a hall locker. The most successful people would have no turf but journey from classroom to gym to library to another classroom to the bus home. We did not have backpacks. Some of us had briefcases but more of us had two rubber straps with clasps to minimize the risk of our portable books and loose leaf notebooks scattering. Unorganized was not a handicap in that setting but became one in college where the dorm had a desk that I did not like to sit at to study, as did my apartment in medical school. Residency returned me to lack of formally designated workspace for the last time, which may be why many people, myself among them, thrive as residents. I had one main book, not that many papers, and journals that came in the mail unsolicited. Somebody else filled out forms or wrote prescriptions. I traveled light.
But now I accumulate paper once again and it has to be sorted and purged from time to time. It's a low priority in my mind, though not necessarily in management's mind. I like being with the patients and with the residents in the exam rooms and on the wards and sometimes in the conference room. I can work effectively wherever the computer terminal and charts are, roaming from one patient unit to another as the need arises, without a good sense of professional headquarters. Like the rolling stone, no moss or paper gathers.