REAL TALK: Guilt that comes when pursuing a life in medicine.

It can be hard to keep friends outside of PA/Med school: The guilt that comes with choosing a life in medicine.
As I reflect on the past year (almost 2 years) since moving out of Florida and starting this journey to pursue my goals out of state, I’ve noticed a drastic change in the people who are in my everyday life – or try to be, anyway. Reflecting on this has occurred more times than I’d like to admit, but I’ve recently turned my thoughts toward this again after being so far from the people I consider closest to me in my program…
Making sustainable friendships, pouring in to the lives of others, and investing my heart into those around me are all SUCH important things I find imperative to keep me fulfilled throughout life. But the unfortunate reality of taking this period to keep your head down in a book for so long is that others outside of the four walls of your classroom are likely not going to be able to comprehend the rigor of your life in school.

This puts us in a very confusing and torn place to be as students.

On one hand were choosing in to one of the most compassionate fields created, yet we may be called self-centered for taking this time and only putting energy toward school by others who may not hear from us as often.
As medical students, choosing to keep everyone happy would result in incompetence in the career we’ve chosen if we choose to not commit fully to the responsibilities of our studies.
Lives would be at stake, procedures wouldn’t be mastered when we exit our programs, and we’d end up spending more time anxious about whether we did the right thing than actually being able to spend valuable time outside of work when all is said and done.
Not to mention wasting the 100,000+ dollars we’ve spent just to be here.
But trust me, I get it. On one hand, we have patients who love our ability to connect with them in ways most providers have never tried to prior, we see healing in patients we’ve assisted to manage care to, we see our hard effort through passing grades on exams we study for around the clock for, the list goes on.
But then on the contrary- in the back of our mind, the family and friendships we left back home to pursue this dream. You think of the friends outside of the field of family who don’t understand the commitment –those who think you’re being selfish for abandoning life as it was before PA school started. When all you wanted to do was to make the world a little better than you found it using your desire to become a provider.

If you’re an outsider looking in, this is a real thing and it happens more than you’d think.

But what most don’t see are the expectations: to recall information we’ve somehow stuffed in over the past 20+months, cram new information in daily, impress our preceptor when they’re testing us on random material in front of hospital staff to witness, all with a good attitude and all with a smile on our face, we get off those long shifts, we go home, we review the new information to make sure it sticks in our head, try to sleep enough hours, wake up, look presentable, & do it all again. Oh, and on top of that we have thesis work to do and our own research to create throughout the learning process. At this point your brain is toast. All you want to do is to sleep for ages and veg out.

But the others? I mean, they may have a point…why would they not think that were selfish people? We forget important events, we forget birthdays (or maybe we don’t forget but the day gets busy & we forget to text/call), we aren’t there for the big life events like weddings, engagements, first babies, etc.

The truth is this: At the end of our days most of our time and compassion is exhausted in strangers and the selfishness is left for those we love and who love us.

So what do we do? First thing is to confidently lose the guilt trip. As to-be medical providers, we love to fix people, situations, we want to fix anything we can get our hands on.

But the sole reality is that we’ve been placed in this field for a reason and that being: to use our passion and abilities to heal. If we don’t acknowledge this requirement to fulfill our life’s purpose then when will we have another chance to pursue it? There will never be a perfect time in the world of everyone else, so do it now without the guilt.

 Now, RELAX. This period of life is okay being spent learning how to keep humans alive.
It’s okay to tell your family or friends that your time is being spent in the library and you can’t make it home next weekend.
It’s okay to be present for your patients and/or future patients and not for quality time with your old BFF every week.
It’s okay to use this time to find out who your real circle consists of, which friends are true to your friendship and which leave you when life gets crazy and out of control.
The next truth is this: Those who love you unconditionally WON’T leave you.
Some people will go, but those who stay - they love you. And those extra invites or texts inviting you to different events, parties, or plans to get together are all just attempts to spend time with you. They want to see you succeed. Although they may not understand completely, they’ll be there in the end rooting for you till you walk across that stage. They’ll tell you it’s worth the long nights, tears, and the huge slice complete of humble pie your doctor just served you getting pimped in surgery.
Make time for them as much as you can. Life is still going by whether or not were a part of it. Find the balance that works for you and enjoy the brutal nights and early mornings – one day you may not be surrounded by 50+ other colleagues who feel and struggle through the same days and nights you do.
…and remember, you’re going to be a competent provider and that’s something that doesn’t come without sacrifice.