I'm almost done proofing the galleys for the book, and there's only been one part that has made me cringe--one part that frankly has always made me cringe--and that is the six or so pages in which I am explaining why I switched residencies.
Some background for the new kids, and a little explanation to the readership in general, since my residency switch is easily one of the most popular topics about which I receive e-mail: a long, long time ago, I was a medical student who didn't know what she was going to be when she grew up. So I thought I would go into Pediatrics, because I liked my Pediatrics rotation and I liked the residents and attendings that I worked with (read: they never yelled at me) and I thought kids were cute or at least easy to overpower. But about a year into my Peds residency, I realized that I had probably made the wrong choice. This is not a condemnation of the field of Pediatrics in general. Pediatrics is a fine and noble field populated with some of the best doctors with whom I have ever had the honor to work. But it is not for everyone, and as it turned out, it was not for me, much the same way that Orthopedics, Emergency Medicine, or Psychiatry are also not a good fit for my personality and interests. Basically, I thought I would be a good Pediatrician, and I was wrong. The field of Pediatrics did not fail me, I failed the field of Pediatrics. Luckily, I had a chance to correct that error, and I was able to switch from the Peds residency program to the Anesthesia residency program without too much fuss. And now you know the rest of the story.
However, reading over the few pages in which I detail the rationale of my switch, I keep feeling like I come off as a spoiled, squeamish ingrate. Like: Ugh, well-child visits, flu season, overnight shifts in the Peds ER? Get me the fuck out of here and back behind some surgical drapes, where I all my patients are unconscious and I can fastidiously rearrange syringes to my heart's content! And maybe the pages still read like that to me (after umpteenth rounds of revision--that was one of the more difficult parts for me to write, frankly) is because it all is to some degree true, and I just feel like it highlights some central failure of character on my part. Why couldn't I stick with Peds? Why couldn't I finish what I started? I love being an anesthesiologist, but does switching out of Pediatrics make me a quitter? Whenever I revisit the switch in my mind, no matter how much I know that it was the right decision, part of me thinks exactly that. You quit. You're a quitter. You left because it was hard, and then you found something else. Traitor.
(And then I push myself down, take off my own glasses and step on them.)
I am nothing but grateful for the two years of residency training that I received in Pediatrics. Those two formative years helped me become the kind of doctor that I am today, and provided a strong foundation upon which the rest of my training was built. I moved on, but I'm not ungrateful, nor do I bear any disrespect or animus towards the field of Pediatrics nor the people who took the time and effort to train me. Peds, I know from experience, is one of the most challenging specialties in medicine. But it's true, I just didn't want to be a Pediatrician anymore. And reliving that realization feels bad, like revisiting the breakup with your first serious boyfriend, or remembering the look on his face when you told him.
Has anyone else out there switched residencies? Switched careers? Was there any long-term guilt involved with that, even if it was the right decision in the end?