Warning: This article includes spoilers for Grey's Anatomy's season 16, episode 6.
The longer Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is away from the hospital, the harder it is for fans to see Meredith returning to being a doctor on Grey's Anatomy. But we may have to accept that the era of Dr. Meredith could really end. Besides, Mer herself seems pretty okay with the possibility of her medical license being revoked. And that could mean a change is coming.
Meredith started the Oct. 31 episode by complaining to her jail cellmate about how much she missed being a doctor and how she couldn't lose her license because she had three kids to support. "I love being a surgeon, I would miss the OR and miss my patients," Meredith added. Her cellmate didn't have much sympathy for Meredith. It turned out that she was in jail for briefly leaving her kids home alone at night while working two jobs to make ends meet. She hadn't even had a hearing yet, but couldn't leave because she couldn't post bail. Her children were in foster care. Her story helped Meredith again see her own privilege. (Meredith apparently needs to be reminded of that every other episode by people less fortunate than her, because she keeps forgetting that she's a doctor who owns a hospital and is financially fine even if she doesn't ever get to go back to work, but okay.)
At the end of the episode, Meredith was released from prison and started to embraced the uncertainty of her life, knowing that she was going to be okay wherever she landed. "I had a lot of time to think [in jail] and I realized that, okay, so if I don't have a job and I can't practice medicine, I still have a lot to work with and I'll figure something out," she told her sisters. After that, she went and paid her cell mate's bail.
Meredith is obviously interested in helping other people. For years she's done that as a doctor, but recently she's done so (or tried to do so) by calling out the failing insurance system and helping others with their legal woes. Maybe if she does lose her license she'll go into advocacy work and try to reshape the healthcare industry or justice system.
However, Meredith's change of heart is more likely just a way to make herself feel better until she knows the outcome of the medical board's decision. If they reinstate her license, she'll probably jump at the chance to get back into the OR. Maybe she'll go work at Alex Karev's (Justin Chambers) new hospital, or maybe Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) will finally find it in her heart to forgive Meredith and welcome her back. After all, as a fan recently pointed out to Pompeo, Bailey herself bent the insurance rules when she pretended it was still 11:58 p.m. on a day when a man's insurance expired at midnight.
Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff also hinted that Meredith's hiatus from the medical field wouldn't be too long. In an interview with TV Guide, Vernoff was asked what Grey's would look like without Meredith practicing medicine. Vernoff didn't want to give too much away, but she said, "For sure, there's a period of time, here, where Meredith can't practice medicine."
The way she phrased things makes it sound like that period of time is finite and will eventually come to an end. After all, Pompeo's contract goes through 2021. At some point Meredith needs to be a doctor again on this medical show, right? Answers are coming soon, at the very least. The synopsis for the Nov. 14 episode (two episodes from now) says that "Meredith faces the medical board as her future as a doctor remains uncertain, and she’s forced to reckon with her past in some challenging ways."
So by Nov. 14, fans should at least know one way or another if Meredith is ever going to be a doctor again. The good thing is that if she's not and they do take away her license, she seems to have reckoned with that possibility already. And she's not going to let it stop her from helping people in whatever capacity she legally can.