medical school

My original impression from others was that medical school would be brutal for our family. People were so surprised that my husband was starting medical school married with two children. Luckily we quickly found friends who were also starting medical school with children and formed strong friendships with them. Those friendships were so essential to our survival and happiness. My husband and I feel that we made some of our closest friends during those years. We have wonderful memories of the four years of medical school and don't feel like they were brutal at all, (particularly now that we are experiencing residency).

I also originally thought that the four years of school seemed like forever.  The application and preparation process, not to mention the anticipation, leading up to medical school made it seem like we had "arrived" once my husband started.  I think we both felt like we would be in that phase of our lives forever.  However, the four years ended up going by very quickly.

As I look back, I think the following are some helpful aspects to our surviving medical school:

1. My husband had an office where he could easily "escape" and study.
2. We had an amazing support system in the neighborhood where we lived, which was essential for our children, and us.
3. We went out together on a date every single week.

FIRST YEAR
My husband almost went into shock during the first few weeks of medical school while experiencing the long hours of sitting in class and/or studying. The level of stress he was enduring increased exponentially, but his time to exercise and deal with that stress decreased. He became involved in (and passionate about) cycling (road) and used it during his breaks to decrease the stress he was feeling. He loved studying though, and told me that he was sure it was the "best education" one could receive. He also participated in intramural sports and found a great study group.

Before classes even started, I attended a Medical Spouses Association (MSA) meeting. During that meeting, I met spouses of other medical school students that became some of my closest friends. The first year I was very involved with MSA. I attending cooking clubs, service activities, book clubs, play groups, and other activities. I loved the MSA organization; it allowed me the social interaction, friendships, and support that I desperately needed as my husband studied long hours.  In addition, as I volunteered for various positions within the MSA, I improved my resume, which later came in very handy when I applied to a masters degree program.

SECOND YEAR
The second year of medical school consisted of studying for required courses in addition to studying for Step I medical board exams. By second year, my husband was more accustomed to the long hours of studying, but he then had the additional stress of preparing for the boards.

I became even more involved in the MSA during my husband's second year of medical school. I volunteered to be the service coordinator for the MSA and was given a huge project by the County's Medical Spouse Association. This project consisted of teaching elementary school children about internet safety by way of school assemblies. During this year, I met many physicians' spouses and had many neat opportunities. This experience led me to want to study public health. It also provided me with the resume experience that I needed to be accepted into a public health masters degree program.

This was a really busy year and a stressful one for my husband. I remember for the first time feeling like I was a "single mother" rather than a medical student's wife, (which everyone had warned me about). I talked often with friends and was grateful to have people sharing similar experiences and emotions.

THIRD YEAR
The third year of medical school was so exciting. My husband was almost giddy once he was able to stand up during the day, rather than just sit and study, He loved to actually work with people and apply what he had been learning in text books for two years. Initially he loved every rotation and was not sure how he could possibly chose a specialty, but then the excitement settled a bit and he was able to see each one objectionably.

My husband was surprised by the influence of the personalities of the attending physicians, residents, and others he worked with on each rotation. Each specialty seemed to have its own "personality," which often determined whether my husband could see himself working in that specialty. It was unfortunate if a resident or attending was not professional and left negative impressions of the specialty for the medical students.

I started my masters degree during the summer between my husband's second and third year of medical school. I took only two classes per semester (part-time) and enjoyed every minute of it. I was also expecting our third child and when he came during my fall semester a few months later, I took him with me to classes for a few months. It was stressful but I loved having the intellectual stimulation and really liked having something to study at night when my husband was studying or working overnight. I think it prevented me from becoming sad or lonely - I was much too busy. Luckily I had great friends and neighbors (an amazing support system) and we lived very close to campus, so my studying for my masters was possible.

FOURTH YEAR
My husband and I thought fourth year would be much more relaxing than it turned out to be. He spent many weeks interviewing and when he did have time off from classes and was home, he had courses to take, papers, exams, and also worked to make extra money doing histories and physicals (H-and-P's). This was also the year to take the second medical board exams (Step II), but these boards were not nearly as stressful as the first set of boards taken during second year.

This year was also very busy for me. I was enjoying my coursework but the stress my husband was under affected me a lot. It was so nice to have him finished with interviews, (he even cancelled one), because it was so tiring and stressful to travel. I thought it would be fun and exciting for him to see the cities and explore the programs. He assured me that it was not exciting. Because we had three children and I was in school (not to mention the added expense), I did not accompany him on any of his interviews. I would have loved to though, and heard from other wives that it was highly recommended.

The last semester of medical school was the most stressful ever. My husband was anticipating match day and I was expecting our fourth child and thus trying to cram in as much of my own coursework as possible. We both walked during our graduation ceremonies in the spring, though I still had summer course work to complete. It was wonderful to complete that phase of our lives. I remember well my husband's visible elatedness.


SOME TIPS FOR CHOOSING WHAT TO SPECIALIZE IN:

A ton of deliberation and discussions surrounded my husband's decision to choose his specialty. In the end, he chose anesthesia. My husband knew that he could be happy doing a variety of specialties but his top priorities in choosing a specialty included:

1. Interest. He wanted to choose a specialty that interested him and one that would not become boring or too routine. He also wanted one that would be challenging and engaging in a variety of ways (procedures, etc.).

2. Life style. He already had three children and knew how much he loved spending time with them, and how much time and attention they demanded of him. My husband also loves to cycle, mountain bike, do triathlons, ski, run, play sports, etc. etc. etc. so he wanted a specialty that would allow him to be involved with his family and his hobbies.  

3. Compensation. He did not want to have to work long hours in order to provide enough money for our family. He knew he would be happier working less hours, and thus making less money than other doctors, if it meant he could spend more time with the family but still provide well.

While working as a surgical assistant for an opthalmologist (a retinal surgeon) before medical school, my husband told me that he would never even consider anesthesia and wondered why anyone else ever would. He said it looked so boring. My husband had always planned on being a surgeon. He loves to work with his hands and even during medical school found the surgery rotation to be fascinating. Unfortunately, his rotation with surgery during his third year of medical school was not the "best experience." Another surgeon said about the surgery residency in my husband's program: "They really eat their own." 

So, my husband continued to explore other specialties.  He learned about anesthesiology by talking with students from other medical school classes and ended up attending a conference that instigated his interest in anesthesia.  He also spoke with many anesthesiologists and eventually became excited about the field.

Interestingly enough, a physician asked Jared during this decision process (of choosing a specialty): "What is the first impression you have when someone mentions the word 'doctor'?" The physician said that Jared should choose the specialty that he pictured. Jared really didn't know how to answer, he wasn't really sure. Jared only has one relative who works in the medical field: his cousin's husband is a nurse anesthetist. My husband claims that this did not play into his decision, but I thought it was interesting that he ended up choosing anesthesia. Maybe it is a question to think about after all.

Another physician told my husband to choose a specialty that he felt passionate about. He said to find one that would draw him to the hospital because he loved it so much. He was a neurosurgeon. He said that he loves his specialty so much that he wold rather be performing brain surgeries than doing anything else in the world (including going home after a long shift). 

THE MATCH

Making a rank list and waiting for Match Day during the second half of fourth year was beyond stressful. The stress started with my husband's first interview and did not end until Match Day. He was constantly deliberating and changing his rank list. He wanted me to research the cities and help him rank the programs, but I was extremely busy during the winter semester of my graduate program, and unable to help much. Somehow I think this saved me from being totally stressed out like he was about the Match, but I probably could have helped ease some of my husband's stress if I had been more available to talk about his worries and decisions.

Match Day was exciting and relieving. It was nice to know where we would be living for the next few years and finally start making inevitable plans for moving our family to a new city.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow- This was encourgaging. My hubby is also returning to school and pursing his passion. Not to mention as well as myself (returning).

It gives me more motivation with both of us returning and having a home to provide for all at the same time.

Afte reading your story it gave me that extra encourgagement!!!!

Kudos and congrads!

I am excited about our outcome.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I was googling ways to encourgage my husband during stressed times and your site came up.

So thanks for the blog!!!

Jones Family

Jamie Lamb said...

This was so interesting to read! You know I've read your blog for a while now, but I had never read this part.

Our med school years were very different from yours. I didn't have a good support system of friends, and that was truly painful. I also wanted to earn my masters degree, but it seemed like too much money. It was a very lonely and frustrating time for me!

Residency has actually been a more demanding lifestyle, but I've been much happier. I guess the trials of residency have forced me to grow as a person--and that always ups the happiness level of a person!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog as I was googling ways to help my husband while he is studying for the boards (painful, painful, painful). He just finished his fellowship in critical care medicine after his anesthesia residency. Just when I thought things might get better (training is done whoohoo), he has boards and now the stress of being a new attending! Sometimes it seems like it never ends (and it may not). It's nice to know there are other people struggling and going through similar experiences - thanks for your blog!

Everyday Life said...

This help me so much because i wanted to know if someone was going to same experience as i am. I reading this blog and tell me that everyone is dealing with the same issue and i am not only one. Because it is hard to get advice from your friends because they are not dealing with same issue. I found this blog on Google and it took awhile to find your blog at first. Good thing i found it because my boyfriend was getting worried and sad that he want me to have bad life because of the loneliness and becoming home late from really late when he start his residency next year. Now, i am going to be fine and i am not going give up soulmate.

Alyssa said...

this blog has been so, so encouraging for me. as the fiance of a pre-med student, the trials and hardships of the upcoming years scare me to death. im so glad to know that it's going to be okay, and that we can make it. you give me inspiration and hope.

Ajay said...

Thanks for this wonderful blog, though I don't have wife or kids..I am not even married right now..but I plan to study medicine in Australia (as it has very low fees compared to USA) and I was wondering about my future, how I shall take care of my family. Your blog definitely provided the much needed strength.
Thanks a ton!!!

Anonymous said...

Hithere... Thank you so much for thisblog on medical school. We are just about to start our first year this fall and I'm so nervous about it ,nervous that i could not handle it on my own with our baby girl since her dad will be gone for such long hours.

Tina said...

Wow! That was quite positive-which is hard to find as I read around on this topic. My husband is entering MD school this year & we have 3 young kids. I'm blessed to have found your post. Best to you & your family!

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