The First Year of Medical School- From the Wife’s Perspective

Well, it’s finally over! The first year of med school is behind us! I do say “us” because, although hubs had to suffer through crazy hours, studying, and terminology that I think he may never use again, life was crazy for me. Life with a full time job and 3 kids is crazy as it is, throw in med school and that’s just complete chaos- on a good day. I’m not complaining, I’m just keeping it real. Either way, it’s behind us. So, one year down, three more to go until we can call him Dr. Hubs. Similar to my post about applying to med school, I thought it would be good to recap the first year. There were a number of things that I observed as the spouse of a first year med student, that I’m sure friends and family may have noticed as well. Here are a few that are worth noting.

1) Standards of personal appearance diminish. On the first day of med school hubs was all neatly shaven, dressed well and ready to go. By the end of the year, his facial hair was longer than when he got back from Iraq and his normal attire consisted of hoodies and some kind of sport pants. Don’t get me wrong, I still think hubs is pretty good on the eyes so I’m not complaining. I’m sure that if I were the one in med school, you could have made a fleece from the hair on my legs and my attire would be yoga pants that I have no business wearing.

2) Medical students are not doctors yet. Even so, it seems that everyone has medical questions for them. Like you get your white coat and that means you know something. Yes, they may know a lot of fancy words and can point you in a general direction of what the possibilities could be. However, they’re learning so much information that by the time you mention the symptoms of the paper cut on your finger, you could have cancer, a broken leg or hemorrhoids Ask questions at your own risk, or for sheer entertainment.

3) The kind of funny thing about the first year, virtually every time that hubs was studying for a quiz or test, he knew someone that was going through that exact thing. It first began when I was in the ER with a wicked kidney infection. I thought I was for sure dying from a burst appendix. Hubs so patiently sat with me, even though I knew he was stressing out about his exam the next day. The doctor went through his usual questions and, low and behold, it was a kidney infection. So, hubs goes into his exam the next day, an interview with a patient, and what do you know, they have a kidney infection too! He of course knew all the right questions to ask since I was so kind to have my infection just in time. So, when they were studying strep throat, Elijah came home from school with strep. Shortly after that, they’re studying norovirus. Yup, that came to visit our house too. We began to notice this pattern. Then, it began to affect people we know. Friends were asking me to ask hubs about weird rashes their kids have (note number 2 above), and believe it or not, he would be studying that exact thing. Over the course of the year, aside from the items mention above, his study schedule coincided with asthma, pneumonia, fifths disease, lymphoma, well, you get the idea. I began asking him what he was studying so that I could give everyone a heads up. Yes, it got that weird.

4) Classes in med school are NOTHING like what you would see in undergrad. When I was in undergrad forever ago, you would have a MWF class that started at 10:20am (usually on the other side of campus) or a TTh class at 2:10pm. It had structure and consistency. Based on what I saw, that was not the case. Hubs would have his “normal” class schedule and they were even so kind to schedule in some study time they called “independent learning time” or ILT. Nice right? Well, until they toss another class into the ILT time, in the middle of the semester. At that point, I just decided I wouldn’t try calling hubs until after 7pm on weeknights. Unless it was an emergency. Like if we were out of bacon or something. Then he would get a call, and maybe a text.

5) Window markers are a must. Hubs found it very helpful to write science stuff on the mirrors (and framed pictures too- really anything with glass) so it was always there to study. I did manage to draw a small circle that was “off limits” for him to write. It’s really hard to put mascara on with the word “prothrombinase complex” over your eyes. Or curl my hair with “direct cholinergic agonist” in the way. In fact, there are a lot of agonists- more than I care to remember. My OCD personality had to first try not to write over hubs with easier to read letters (I now believe some of the “letters” I couldn’t read were actually symbols). I managed to make it the whole semester without once erasing his words, and I even made my “no-write” area smaller for him. So, imagine my excitement his last day and I have his permission to clean all of the mirrors in the house! Imagine my horror only to find we have no window cleaner left. A 2 hour session on Pinterest searching for homemade cleaner followed.

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6) A hobby is a necessity. Every Friday hubs and a few classmates would meet up to play basketball. They even came up with the clever name “Nothin but Netters”. For those of you non-science people (like me), Dr. Frank Netter was an artist who became a doctor and illustrated the most mainstream anatomy book used in medicine today. Or the “holy grail of med school” as hubs often refers to it. So, shout out to the “netters” and thank you ladies and gents for keeping hubs sane! That, I think, was the highlight of his week and always made a great start to the weekend. Although, I do have to say, it sure seems that med students get hurt a lot playing ball. I heard so many stories of sprains, breaks, stitches, and a number of other injuries. A little ironic right?

7) Everything becomes science. I mean every conversation becomes related to whatever hubs is studying. You know, knowledge at work or whatever they say. The cookies that are in the oven- that’s a chemical reaction happening. I say sure- what else would explain a 1 ounce item making my body gain 3 pounds. The math doesn’t add up so it’s got to be something with the chemical weights right? The baby is fussy- definitely some anatomy and biology going on there. Or, he’s gassy and needs to fart. Either way, there was a LOT of science, and science talk, happening at our house.

8) Speaking of everything becomes science, after hours of reading practice questions, flashcards or whatever other fancy items hubs uses to study, I find that I can’t get some of that stuff out of my head. Like I was literally waking up with the word “duodenum” running through my mind. I really have no idea what it is, I just know there was a period of time where it was in a LOT of the stuff hubs was studying. Sometimes I liken it to waking up speaking a completely foreign language. It sounds all fancy and cool, but I have NO idea what I’m really saying. I would be trying to ask where the restroom is but it translates to “Can I have a toilet with my coffee?”.

9) I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a moment where I considered medical school since hubs started though. I have never really enjoyed science but when I’m hearing the stories about school and the people he’s getting to know, I think maybe it would be possible, sometimes it sounds almost “fun”. And then he asks me to read some practice questions to him and I can actually pronounce the first question! I think, “man, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad!”. And then I try to say the answers and realize that I am much happier feeling smarter doing what I do now and thank God that I have the career I have. What was I thinking considering that??

10) Lastly, I discovered that in order for these “baby doctors” to learn, they need people to volunteer (or sometimes get paid) to be practiced on. No biggie right? I did a post about helping hubs go through a physical exam which was pretty standard. But, let’s think about this a little bit. That was a standard exam. You know, check heartbeat, lungs, knee reflexes, the usual. What about those dreaded exams that most people (except for the volunteers I suppose) try to avoid. Like a woman’s annual checkup or a prostate exam. Yup. People volunteer for that. On purpose. Kudos to them and helping hubs and the doctors of tomorrow learn the prostate and how to do a pap smear. I will help in whatever way I can, but I have my limits.

I’m sure I forgot some items that would qualify for the list above. But overall, it was a good year. Not as bad as I thought it might be. I’m interested to see what is different about second year. It will be great to recap the second year because that will mean he’s that much closer to being done!

3 thoughts on “The First Year of Medical School- From the Wife’s Perspective

  1. Hahaha! This takes me back. To a good place. Hubster and I met in anatomy (yes, over a dead body) our first year of med school. So while it was a whirlwind – it was a LOVELY one. Positive vibes to you and yours!!!!


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