The Med School Process – From the Wife’s Perspective

So, by now you know that hubs is in medical school. As of last week, we’ve he has survived his first semester! This might not sound like a big deal to most, but med school is part of why I started blogging. You see, when he was going through the long, tiring process of taking classes and applying for med school, I had looked all over for websites, blogs or whatever I could find to guide us through it. Most blogs were outdated. I could only attribute it to the fact they must have made it and no longer had a need to blog about med school right? I wanted to better understand the process and how I, as the working spouse, could properly support hubs while he was going through. I decided that when he started med school, I would use this as a creative outlet, as well as hopefully an outlet for other spouses/significant others of med students. Or those considering med school.

I’ve found that when I tell people that he is in med school there are either two responses and looks I get: 1) “Oh wow” (insert ‘shocked, he’s absolutely crazy for going back to school’ look) “How does that work? I mean, isn’t he too old for that?” (Um, no. He’s 33, not 103). 2) “That’s great!” (Realization comes over their face) “How are you possibly going to manage with him in school???”. Gasp! You mean I have to BE A MOM?? Oh no! What ever shall I do??

So, please allow me to get on my soapbox so that I can clarify a few things. My hope is that another person facing the same scrutiny can just refer the skeptical person to this posting. First, I truly feel the most important thing you can do when deciding your career is to pick something you love. I’ve heard people say before, I would rather have the heart surgeon who loves their job than the one who is just doing it for the money. Hubs has wanted to be a doc since I met him in our freshman year of college. We were 18 and at that super mature age we were expected to decide what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. He chose to go into the education field like pretty much all of his family had done. After all, it takes FOREVER to become a doctor right? Fast forward 10 years, after serving overseas, working with the education system and then me dragging him to a new state for my job, it was time to reevaluate what he felt God had purposed him to do. Hubs is a great educator and has a very special gift of relating to those around him. Education was not fulfilling his desire to help those around him though. This was his personal feeling and the direction he was receiving through prayer and a lot of talking with people in both the education and medical fields. He finally decided to take his own advice and follow his heart and pursue a degree in medicine. His passion for people and helping is what will make him a fantastic physician. Yes, I am biased but others have said it too! Second, starting to do something you love, at any time in your life, is better than never starting at all. When hubs first began talking with many schools about their programs and what it would take to get accepted, every one of them mentioned how they LOVED having “non-traditional” students. These are students who do not go from degree to degree becoming a doctor. They are those who have a diverse start. His was a history degree, 8 years in the Marine Corps and then several years teaching youth in diverse situations. They loved that he has had to face “the real world” and that experience can offer additional understanding when working with patients.
However, please understand as well, getting into medical school is NOT easy, no matter what background you have.

Once you have the prerequisite coursework complete (hubs had to go back to school for 2 years to get those needed classes), you have the dreadful MCAT.  It is horrible watching someone you love have to prepare for this. To help sum it up so you can fully understand (based on what hubs said), imagine you had to take a test on history that was 5 hours long. At first you might say, no biggie. Except did you think, what part of history? It is in the last decade? Last century? American history? Asian history? What about the history of Siberia from 1300-1367? See where I’m going with this? The topics are incredibly wide ranged so how in the world do you prepare for that? Not to mention, once you go into the testing environment, feeling ill prepared no matter how much you tried to study, you get finger printed and you have to empty your pockets. So, now you are walking into a room that has a strict testing environment, feeling like you just went through prison central booking and you have to focus for hours. HOURS! Thankfully, you have up to 3 times to take the test in a year to get the best score you can get. From what I heard, most people take it at least twice.

Once you’ve survived the MCAT, you have now proven yourself worthy to go onto the next feat- the application process. You pick all the schools you would like to go to, most people do at least 8-10 although lately I’ve heard of people doing upwards of 15-20. At roughly $50-$150 per application. Disgusting right? You then submit your applications and hope and pray that you hear back from at least one school.
Once you hear back that they love you- or want more information- you complete the supplemental application. This application is where things get crazy. Each school has a different requirement as to what they want to hear about. One may have an essay about why you love watching trains go by while another asks for a complete breakdown of the underlying message in the Harry Potter series (remember, this is from the wife’s perspective…). Once you return that, with an additional fee of course, you wait. And wait. And wait.

Hopefully you hear from at least one school for the next step, the interview. That makes all that trouble worth it. This is where you get into a fancy suit and go talk with several people in the department and tour the campus and see what they have to offer. We’ve heard the saying that if you’re getting called for an interview, you have a spot in that med school, it’s just a matter of you keeping that spot. No pressure right? Once you have the interview(s) done, you wait. Again.

The next step is to hear from the schools as to your acceptance. Maybe you hear from more and you can see what best fits your needs. And if you don’t hear from any, you reach out to the school and find out what you can do better.

So, the purpose of my rambling is to explain that applying to med school is not just one application and a handshake. It’s a LONG process that is stressful and tiring and financially exhausting. But when you get that call that you’ve been accepted, there is no better feeling. You then know it was worth it.

Of course the fun doesn’t stop there, it’s time for school! Hubs is in his first year so all I know is what we’ve heard from other med students who have worked through the challenges. In hubs case, he started with orientation week and then his White Coat Ceremony. This is a ceremony welcoming first year med students with their first white coat- the short one. It’s a pretty awesome ceremony and it makes it feel all the more real. The rest of the semester was not without its ups and downs and it’s only the first one! I’ve had to change my work schedule so that I am on a more defined time instead of being able to stay late- kind of tough for a self-admitted workaholic. Our family time was drastically reduced because there were a lot more study sessions taking place than originally thought. On the up side, our family time was even that much more special. We made sure that those times were not just sitting around watching TV but doing something TOGETHER. It forced hubs and I to communicate better and because I’m slightly OCD, I had the excuse to be super organized- or at least I tried to be. Our motto has been short term sacrifice for long term gain. Knowing that we made it through this semester makes me realize we can make it through the rest of them.

After this year, he will have 3 more years of schooling- these first 2 being more of the textbook/in class piece and then the third and fourth years are when things become hands on. Once he completes the first 4 years, he’s a doctor! After that, he has residency which is typically 3 years and then additional schooling if he wants to do a fellowship.

The point of my soapbox is that yes, going back to school in your 30’s to do something you love might not be for everyone. But don’t doubt him because you wouldn’t do it. Don’t dismiss the many signs of things falling into place and think that nothing is possible. Most importantly, at the end of the day, he’s working towards doing what he loves. That, in my opinion, makes life a lot more fulfilling.

7 thoughts on “The Med School Process – From the Wife’s Perspective

  1. This is a terrific explanation of his journey and yours as well. Imagine working 40 years in a factory where the money is great but the job is horrible. No job satisfaction. Imagine a job that you could love but you have a horrible boss and you end up hating the job. No….you are on the right path. I hope that he will be the just what we need doc of the future who will listen to the patients and care. Can’t imagine him being any less.


  2. I’m also Bias because he is my nephew. Hang in there God did,
    Not bring you this far to turn he’s back on him known. And it,
    Takes a Good Wife to stand by ,
    Her husband side. I’m praying that God give you both the strength to make it through. 👏😋


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