Maybe you had to respond to an emergency call instead of following through on a promise to your child. Maybe you spent your day delivering the best medical care, but for one patient, your efforts didn’t deliver the results you’d hoped for. Perhaps a fellow attending asked you to cover her call, which happens to fall on the same night as a long overdue evening with your significant other (of course, the attending just covered for you last month).
Feelings of guilt can surface over any number of circumstances, some more serious than others. Work through feelings of guilt by first reviewing your actions and confirming that there was no wrong-doing on your part. If, in fact, you did do something wrong, now’s your chance to fix it. Otherwise, it’s most likely your own emotional circus at play. If this is happening often, you may be at risk for physician burnout.
Instead of letting guilt run in circles in your mind, sort its circus acts into their rightful rings. Draw four circles on a sheet of paper. Into the first, jot down the circumstances of the scenario, in the second list your options, in the third write the reasons you made the choice you did, and finally, put the reason you are feeling guilty into the fourth ring. Trapping your thoughts on paper so they are more tangible may help you to be more objective.
If unreasonable guilt is an issue for you, make an effort now to retrain your thought patterns so you can respond to it with logic, self-confidence, a dose of humor, or even a simple compromise.