Musings on guilt

Disclaimer: this isn’t a post containing any solutions, just self-indulgent musings.

Guilt: the unhappy feelings caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something wrong – The Oxford Dictionary

Guilt is a topic which comes up in almost every conversation I have with doctors who are pursuing a path beyond the norm. Many still see patients in some capacity yet have still experienced some degree of internal conflict due to not following a typical path.

It is something I identify with acutely. After 13 combined years of med school and work, I finally accepted that clinical medicine was not for me and hung up my stethoscope last December.

If you wanted the truly honest answer about why I decided to study medicine in the first place, it would involve George Clooney in his ER-prime and an idealistic savour complex. I didn’t come from a medical family, have pushy parents or attend a particularly academic school where career paths were foisted upon us. I am entirely to blame for my own fate (and possibly a general lack of decent careers advice, but that is another conversation).

It wasn’t that I hated clinical work. That would have made it easier. There were so many things I loved, I got good feedback and sadistically quite enjoyed those horrendously busy shifts where you barely have time to pee. But it never felt quite right. I can’t recall ever looking forward to going to work and had absolutely no desire to jump the hoops I would need to progress from being a perpetual SHO, despite being driven and ambitious in all other aspects of my life. The thought of doing more medical exams filled me with a deep sense of dread. It got to the point where even helping Paul revise for his ED viva made me break out in a cold sweat. It was time to leave and I don’t regret my decision.

But I feel guilty about it. I feel guilty about my parents who supported me through endless years of university. Guilty that I walked away from a career so many people would love to pursue. Guilty that Paul is financially supporting the pair of us while I work out my next move. This is the first time since I was 14 years old