Internal Medicine

‘Sideline guilt’ and how it’s affecting physicians not on the frontlines

Posted on

In this JAMA Intern Medicine Perspective article, David B. Reuben, MD, Multicampus Program in Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, Division of Geriatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says he has felt ‘sideline guilt’ since the start of the pandemic, an emotion he described as “a feeling of dysphoria because I am not doing all I possibly could do on the front line of care delivery.”

Dr Reuben writes in the article that the presumed role his patients thinks he has in regard to the pandemic—although he has not had in-person care with a patient who in infected—has brought on this feeling of guilt.

Although he understands that this feeling has no rational basis and that there are many providers throughout the country who need to continue doing the routine work, the guilt remains.

Dr Reuben offers this advice to any providers feeling the same way:

  • Recognize it is normal the feel this way
  • Support colleagues by showing gratitude, generosity, and kindness
  • Understand that all providers are contributing to the overall effort
  • Maintaining relationships with colleagues
  • Don’t interfere with those providing direct care

“For many, a trace of sideline guilt may still linger and that is probably fine. Our hearts are in the right place and in different times or situations, we would have been right there among the band of brothers and sisters,” Dr Reuben concluded. “This crisis will pass, and the next generations will ask us what we did during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some will tell of the intensity of directly caring for infected patients. Others, like me, will say, ‘I was there, and I played a part.’”

Read the full article here.

Reuben DB. Sideline Guilt. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2746