Med School- Another Truth

With year 1 and 2 under our belt, and the third underway, I thought it was fitting to talk a little about the not so bright side of med school. This will be more of a “keepin it real” post- from my perspective as the wife. I think it’s important to share the ugly side of this process for the people that have comments or are critical about my lack of participation in activities. I want to fully explain what is going on and ask to be cut some slack for the next little while until my head can stop spinning. My feelings are not unusual. I say that from extensive discussions with spouses/partners of other med students and from a number of awesome online resources. I’m telling you, get some med school wives together and that is some for real camaraderie! The only other place I’ve experienced that was as a military wife!

I’ve been really hard on myself about how crazy our life has been. Hubs finished second year, spent a month out of state prepping for his board exam, we moved (because everyone loves moving- especially during the craziest summer ever) and he started rotations. Oh, and I am working and traveling too. It’s a lot of work. Unlike anything else I can imagine. We’ve been through a military deployment and that was not fun but also nothing like this. Not in a “med school is more difficulty kind of way”. I worried about him making it home alive from Iraq, I don’t have those fears now (thank goodness!). Now I worry about thing like hubs getting stuck with an HIV sharp while working (which is surprisingly more common than you would think).

I’ve talked in the past about the different aspects of med school- getting into med school, details of the first year, signs of living with a med student, etc. Those were fun and all, but now I want to address the stuff that doesn’t get talked about. On a good day I feel like we’re hanging on by a fraying thread. I’m about one trip out the door from forgetting my purse, or a kid for that matter. All because I’m so worried about keeping up this facade of how we’re breezing through medical school like anyone can do it. I’ve been carrying such a guilt with me because in the midst of all of this going on, I feel like I am unable to do everything or sometimes anything. The house is a mess (of course things are still in boxes so I’ll use that as my excuse for now). I’m terrible about the little things. I think of how I should send a card or make a quick call and before I know it, a week has passed and I still haven’t done it. I have great little ideas but forget to put them into action.

So, here are the cliff notes of how I felt when we were going through each year. This may help explain- or validate- what you see from other med students and families.

Year 1- A very rude awakening, an initiation if you will, to the chaos of what medical school will be. It’s where you sign your life over to the institution that is promising to make you a “world class medical professional”. It’s the place where, if you’re single, it can still be overwhelming and hard to manage. If you’re married, and with kids, forget about it! It wasn’t made for you! You have to work that much harder to not only make med school work, but your family life as well. It’s the place where you learn how strong your spouse is, you learn how strong you are, and if you make it through, you feel like you can conquer the world. It’s a challenge in not only academics, but mentally and physically too. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Year 2- You’re on a bit of a high from surviving year one. You feel like if you made it through that first year, second year should be a breeze. It went by fast, you learned more than you thought possible in that time frame, and you’re still walking and talking. You’re getting closer to the clinical part, which, let’s be real, that’s the reason most people came to medical school. To work with patients- the hands on stuff. By now your spouse is used to the crazy schedule. I said used to not liking– there’s a distinct difference. This is also the time where you begin to realize that you’re too far in to back out now (what other job will cover the amount of debt you have) and you have the first board exam around the corner. You’re cramming to get classes situated and do well, all at the same time scheduling your rotations, which is such a methodical process that I could almost physically see the request being processed by the RAM in hubs computer.

Year 2.175- Step 1 time! It’s your first board exam and really the major exam that will determine, or have a huge part, in determining your placement for residency. So, no pressure!

Year 3- Rotations start and hubs is now super amped up about being able to do hands on learning. He’s successfully completed 2 rotations so far and just started his third. I will admit his first 2 were really easy compared to what’s coming in the next few months. He had fairly regular hours (aside from studying for step 1).  He did miss Elijah getting his tonsils out- I’m sure the first of many things that will be like that. But, it’s part of the process. The rotation he’s in now requires on call status so there might be times where he gets called in at weird hours of the night. That will be a new process for us. It’s going to be a learning curve for sure, but we’re over half way there so it keeps me going.

What always surprises me are when people presume that being doctor is “easy and carefree”. Both the path of becoming a doctor, as well as being a doctor, are neither. You sacrifice time with family and friends and you’re in high stress situations with a mountain on liability riding on your shoulders. Yes, there are financial perks. There have to be. Otherwise no good business person would consider medical school- the cost to attend is so high, you need a return on that investment to even break even.

All in all, it’s been highly stressful, exhausting and downright irritating sometimes, but hubs and I are closer than ever. He’s doing what he loves- which makes me happy for him. We are forced to communicate, not just frequently, but effectively as well. We plan better, even if in-between is a whirlwind. Most of all, we’re a team- so at least I don’t feel completely alone. Well, not until he has 36 hour shifts and then I’ll hog the bed and binge watch Netflix to fill in the gap!

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