Thursday, May 2, 2013

how to: be in a relationship with someone in medical school

I wrote an update to this post - you can find it here!
Chris's white coat ceremony day - so tan, so poorly dressed
Today's prompt for Blogging Every Day in May is to educate you on something you're really good at or know a lot about. I debated between several topics (for example: how to have no idea what you are doing with your life for several years, how to hate the windowless soul-sucking room you work in, how to eat as many brats in as short amount of time as possible, how to feel as like you know nothing about everything) but in the end, I decided that maybe talking about what it's like to date someone in medical school could be interesting.

Chris and I have been together for 5 years, and in those five years we've had a lot of change. In our first year of dating we were both still in college. In our second year, Chris graduated and started working full time while I was still in school. In our third year, Chris started medical school, and I continued to still be in college (back story: I didn't decide on taking science courses until my Junior year, so it took me 5 years to graduate because I had to fulfill all of my requirements for med school applications). In our fourth year, Chris was in his second year of medical school (still the classroom part of his education) while I started working full time. In our fifth year, Chris started the clinical part of his schooling which meant long hours and long stretches of times in different part of the state, and I continued to work. In our sixth year of dating, Chris will finish medical school while I just start it. So what I'm trying to say is...we've had to adjust a lot.

I want to say that all of these transitions have gone smoothly but I would clearly be lying. The hardest time for us was when he was in his second year of school and I was working. All of a sudden I had all of this free time, but no one to spend it with. Chris was neck deep in his studying for both school and the boards which meant little time for anything fun, like hanging out with me! Here's what I've learned about dating someone in medical school, and how we've dealt with it.

+ help out where you can: the road to becoming a doctor is loooooooooooooooooong. From day one, medical students are under a huge amount of pressure to learn everything there is to know about the human body, and everything that could possibly go wrong with it. The best thing you can do is not add to that pressure. I tried to take on a lot of "household" things to make it easier on him, which including being in charge of bills, taking care of the dogs, getting groceries, and general house upkeep. Did I love having to get groceries by myself? No, because I hate grocery shopping, but Chris's time was better spent studying during that time. Because he spent more time studying instead of doing those mundane activities, we also got to spend more actual time together doing things we enjoyed doing together. like this:

+ figure out how they study and then stick to it: Chris likes to have a big table where he can spread out all of his papers, but he also needed something with no distractions. He initially started studying in the living room but then got upset when I would watch TV. Hello, this is the living room. Go to your room with your giant desk in it to study. While there was some push back, I obviously eventually won that battle because of things like common sense and feminine wiles.
+ be that person they can talk to: In the third year (the first year of clinical rotations), medical students will experience things you just won't understand. Really long hours, crazy medical mysteries, and unfortunately a lot of pain and death. Chris did not have a lot of medical experience before he started school so this was all new to him. Experiencing all of that on little sleep and high nerves is a lot. Be that person they can talk to (if they want to talk about it - sometimes Chris just didn't want to talk about it) even if it means listening to all of the things that went wrong but not understanding a single bit of it. Be their person.
+ remind them that you are in this relationship too. While it takes a lot of work on their part to go to medical school, their journey is also yours. Sometimes you just need to remind them that you need attention too. I suggest you remind them this way:
Please let me know how that tactic works out for you.

P.S. an update to this post, as a current medical student dating another medical student