Happy Monday y’all! Before I continue our story and share what life was like through Residency, I thought I would share some things that I learned through Tony’s medical school journey that helped our partnership and helped us get through those long 4 years!
- Live away from campus if you can
This was SO helpful for us. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of students in Tony’s class were young and single and they all lived close to each other. We were 27 when Tony started and very much out of the party scene by that point. Living away from the med school bubble created a retreat for Tony to escape mentally from school and also made us feel like we had our own world outside of school (which can easily take over life!)
- Make friends with other med student spouses but ALSO make friends with other med students!
You will need friends who understand your struggles, and you will also need to not feel alienated in social situations when you are with your spouse. I made a best friend in one of Tony’s classmates- she is even Everly’s Godmother! And when I told her I wanted to be a Doctor too? She’s one of my biggest cheerleaders and advisors!! I really enjoyed my time with some of the other med school spouses/signifigant others. They really understand some of the struggles (financial, missing your spouse a lot, the long hours of study, relocation, and all of the personal sacrifices you make in order to be your partner’s support system!). Also we all became mothers at the same time and that was so special!
- Save up a nest egg before medical school starts- especially if you plan on any children during school!
I can’t say enough about this. Depending on your job, you may have paid maternity leave. In the spa industry, you get paid only when you work. I took 10 weeks of unpaid leave which was about $10k in lost net income! We saved $40k before he started school and this was HUGE. We also paid the interest (at minimum!) on his undergrad student loans so that we wouldn’t fall too far behind during those 4 years. When we first moved to Rochester and I didn’t have a permanent job yet (since I was waiting to sit for my Licensing boards) knowing that we had some money in the bank to fall back on really saved me a lot of stress! If you can finance your partner’s education and not go into debt at all that’s amazing, but I know that’s not always possible. A great resource for all medical families is a blog called The White Coat Investor. He has some fantastic tips and we still read this together religiously every week!
TRUST is key.
This is true for any relationship in any situation, but let’s face it- thanks to Greys Anatomy, our culture is Doctor obsessed now. It’s become sexy, and because of the show everyone thinks that Doctors have sex in call rooms (for the record- GROSS. The sheets don’t get washed in between shifts, there are hospital born pathogens and spores ALLLL over the hospital such as MRSA and C.Diff, and, reality check, ITS A WORKPLACE OF PUBLIC SERVICE). I’ve had well meaning women warn me about “naughty nurses” trying to steal my McSteamy in the White Coat and how I need to “make my presence known at the hospital”…:eye roll:. Girls (and guys!) listen. You either trust your partner or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s time to re-think the relationship or examine any deep-seated issues you may have that are making you fearful that some classmate or nurse is going to steal them away from you. Med students and doctors do work very long hours and they do work very closely with their teams- there may be long stretches of radio silence when it comes to text messaging or phone calls because they are too busy to eat or pee on the floor! This will come up more in Residency when they can’t leave their clinic/rotation until all of the work is done. This could mean 7pm or 11pm- there is no “punching in and out” with this type of work. Trusting that they are where they are telling you they say they are (and that they are probably absolutely exhausted and starving!) is key.
- Take time to celebrate each hurdle and milestone
School can be such a grind for them, and being the sole breadwinner for a while can be a stress you never had on you before! Taking time to go out on dates and relax (and even vacation if you can afford it!) will really help you to reconnect and remember why you are on this path! Our “dates” used to be this: (and I have such great memories!) I would get out of work at 6pm on a Saturday night- Tony would pick me up and we would go to Wegmans and get $6 meals from the prepared food buffet, split a chocolate chip cookie and then do our grocery shopping for the week! It was inexpensive and easy and was a good study break for him at the end of the day!
- Remind yourself that these tough times are temporary
When you are in it, it can feel like it’s forever. I remember mentally trying to take everything one block of training at a time. If I thought at the beginning of Medical School “Okay! Only 12 years to go until he’s an Attending!” I probably would have felt overwhelmed and daunted. Instead, I thought, “Okay! This is our home for the next 4 years… this is what the next 4 years looks like lifestyle-wise, financially, etc.” and then took it year-by-year. It’s a marathon- not a sprint!
- Foster your own passions and interests
This is important in any relationship, but this is CRUCIAL with a busy med student partner. You need girls’ nights, healthy outlets like hobbies and exercise to keep you centered, grounded and happy. If you move away from family and close friends it can feel very isolating and lonely, so take time for phone calls and FaceTime. This helped SO much especially when I missed my best friends!
- Keep your sense of humor together
It is so important to laugh and be silly. Med school and exams can be a lot of pressure on both of you. Tony would ALWAYS make it a point to send me silly text messages throughout his days or tell me funny stories when he got home. You also have to laugh at the things that can be so ridiculous. Medicine is seeing humanity at its most raw and vulnerable, and sometimes, it’s funny! I’ll never forget the stories Tony shared with me of the children he interacted with on his pediatric rotation- like the little 3 year old girl who rolled her eyes annoyingly at him during her physical exam each time he asked her to do something ‘Stick out your tongue’ ‘Can I have your arm for the blood pressure cuff’?’ etc. Or when he and his classmates started practicing blood draws on each other and things went horribly wrong (think projectile bleeding from the arm!) Levity is an antidote to stress- Doctors’ orders!
- If you picked up and left your whole life behind for your spouse…
Embrace all of your emotions. It’s a HUGE, HUGE thing to do for someone (no matter what their field!) It’s one thing to move for a spouse’s job, but to move for school and to take up the responsibility of providing for the two (or more of you if you have kids!) can bring up a lot of anxiety and emotions. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. I had a LOT of panic and anxiety right before we moved (meditation helped!). When we first moved I had no job, no family there and didn’t know a soul! I had to really seek out friends, whereas my husband has a social network from class right away. I attended all of their class events so I could get to know new people too! Embrace the suck- there are highs and lows. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and share how you both are feeling. They are making themselves vulnerable by relying on you and your support just as much as you are making yourself vulnerable by leaving your whole life behind! A little appreciation goes a long way for both parties.
Do you have any tips as a medical school partner you’d like to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks for stopping by! XO, Ashli