I can hardly believe that my husband has been out of medical school for over a year. He’s nearly two months into his second year of residency, which means that he’s IN CHARGE. As in, he makes decisions… And makes sure his interns and fourth-year medical students are doing the right things, ordering the right drugs, and making the right choices for their patients.
Sure, I was only a medical spouse for six months of my husband’s medical school career. But I was there with him for all four years. Here are three of the biggest lessons I learned from my husband’s experience with medical school:
- Working while your spouse is a medical student brings its own set of issues. I was fresh out of grad school and had just started working when my husband started med school. At the very beginning, I was doing freelance work and teaching college writing classes.
Aside from a few summer jobs, I’d never really worked before. So having a job was strange and new.
But my husband wasn’t working – he was still in school. His classmates still had the “work hard, play hard” mentality of college kids. He got weekends off and had exams to study for and had studying to do. It all felt very strange…
On the one hand, I felt left out… envious that he was still in school, with all the intensity of focus and lack of “real world” responsibility that comes with being in school.
On the other hand, I felt somehow more grown up than he was. I was frustrated with his friends and the way they were so careless – the way I’d been in college. I hated how my husband could still stay up until all hours… How he and his friends could pick up and go out for beers whenever they wanted… While I was ready to fully embrace this new phase of adulthood. It felt like I was moving forward while he was standing still. And I didn’t like that.
We learned to get past it. But it wasn’t easy.
- Medical school – and beyond – is one big holding pattern. On a related note… I have been ready since graduate school ended to move forward.
I wanted to get married… Buy a house… Start saving for retirement. (I know – I am so much fun.)
But a lot of those things have had to be put on hold. We couldn’t get married until Husband’s fourth year of medical school, because that’s the only time when he had a long-enough period of vacation days to do the kind of wedding we wanted.
We couldn’t start really saving until residency. Husband paid for med school with student loans, and in order to keep them as low as possible we didn’t really put much away. We lived on my salary as much as possible.
And we still haven’t felt like it’s the right time to buy a house (or start a family – although that’s a whole other story). Yes, some residents do it… Some med students do it, for that matter. But we’ve never felt like it was worth it to buy a house for three or four years and then have to sell when we move on to the next rung on the becoming-a-doctor ladder.
So here we are… In an apartment… Just waiting. Waiting until after fellowship when we finally know where we’ll end up living… When my husband is no longer in training and can join an actual medical practice.
If you want to count my graduate school, we’ve been in this holding pattern – waiting for our real life to begin – for seven years now. And we’ve still got five to six years to go.
- Your spouse will transform into a doctor during medical school. This, I think, was my favorite part of medical school. (And it continues through residency, on a higher level.) When we left college, my husband and I were on a similar level. Okay, okay… So he’s always been smarter than I am… But we had the same level of education, we could interact about pretty much anything, we had a similar store of knowledge.
But in medical school, it was stunning to watch as my husband’s knowledge base expanded. His vocabulary exploded. His confidence grew. He transformed from a smart adult into a considerate, intelligent doctor. It was absolutely amazing to watch. I don’t even know if I have the words to describe it…
People put so much trust in doctors. And to see them direct that trust to my husband… It’s humbling.
Medical school (and beyond) have been a tangle of emotions for me. Loneliness… Envy… Inadequacy… Frustration…
But above all of those things, I’ve felt so much pride.
When he recited the Hippocratic Oath at his white coat ceremony the first day of medical school…
When he got accepted into residency…
When he donned the long white coat that signifies he’s no longer a student…
When he shares with me his little triumphs… When he makes a patient’s life better… When he solves a problem… When a patient, nurse, or fellow physician remarks on how well he’s doing…
When he shares with me his little struggles as well… The patients who won’t listen… The nurses who don’t yet respect him… The doctors who disagree with him… The patients who have died…
I feel so incredibly proud of my husband and the doctor he’s become.