Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Married to a Doctor

During my husband's medical school years, I was active (some years more than others) in the medical school spouses' association. Through this association, I came to know many residents' and physicians' spouses, along with medical school students' spouses. Regardless of where we were in our husbands' training and/or careers, our friendships were forged immediately.

Sometimes a wife would say, "I met my husband while he was a resident and we were married after he finished, so I missed all of those hard years of medical school, internship, and residency... I cheated!" Each time I heard a doctor's wife say this, I totally agreed that she had "cheated" by missing the years of medical training. But, now that I have experienced residency, or life after medical school, I am beginning to disagree with that comment.

I now think that any time someone marries a physician, they instantly enter a somewhat unusual life experience. The most noticeable difference is the set of expectations that seems to come with being "a doctor's wife" or "a doctor's family." Another difference is the number of sacrifices that a physician and the family make to the demanding career of medicine. Also, somewhat less pronounced, is the challenge of a spouse and/or children to be able to understand, accept, and support the physician's demanding career.

I remember very clearly the first night that one of my husband's patients died. He came home the next morning with a very heavy heart. For the first time ever, I just listened to him talk, (usually I just have to give advice, but, fortunately, I had no idea what to say). He couldn't sleep. His sadness in dealing with this experience was difficult for me to witness and even more difficult for me to try to understand and offer the support he needed.

So, one of the less pronounced challenges of a physician spouse is learning how to support the doctor and his/her intense, meaningful, sad, stressful, frustrating, humbling, etc., experiences, which is unusual, no matter when one happens to marry the doctor.

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