When I think about things I know, I tend to feel like I only really know things that "everyone else" already knows... I realize this isn't really the case, but I totally do feel that way. So when it came time for me to think of what I could share with you, something that I knew about that was unique, that "you all" might not know about already, the thing that ended up coming to the front of my mind was - the training that individuals go through to become a doctor, and what it's like to be a doctor's wife.
|Photo by Pure Amour|
I've touched on my doctor's wife status a couple of times on my blog. Doctors go through a TON of training & spend a lot of time away from their families. It can be hard to make long term or short term plans when your spouse is going through their training years. Let me explain.
Sometimes the doctor's life can be hard to understand. The general process is that a person goes to college to get a Bachelors degree (4 years), then they often go straight to medical school (4 years), although some do some time between the BS & the MD working, or getting further training to increase their chances of getting into a good med school. My husband took time in the middle of med school to do research & obtain a MS, so he was at this stage for longer. After medical school, the student graduates with their MD, but they still aren't ready to really be on their own.
|His med school graduation... I totally chopped off his head in this picture.|
Following med school they go into residency, which is specialized training. Residencies can last anywhere between 3 and 6 years or so depending on what the doctor wants to do. Some examples of residencies are Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency, Pediatrics, or Surgery, among others. The first year of residency is called "internship". Residents are paid during their residency, but since they work so many hours, if you were to translate their pay into an hourly wage, it'd likely be hovering around minimum wage. However, in the transition from medical school to residency, doctors receive the largest raise of their life... from spending tons of money on tuition, books, travel for interviews, living expenses, often going into debt with student loans - to earning an income. My husband is doing his residency in pediatrics, which is a 3 year program. He will complete his intern year - the most stressful & busy of the 3 years - in a couple of months.
Following that, a person may or may not decide to further their training by doing a fellowship. Fellowships usually last between 1 and 3 years. Fellowships allow the doctor to further specialize. My husband will likely do this, and his fellowship will likely be another 3 years. Again, they are paid during this time, and they are paid more than they are during residency, but it is not a "large" salary considering the time put in.
So post high-school that's a total of 11 years minimum of training & up to 17 or more. Are you tired yet? I am... :-) That's a lot of training to go through. But it makes sense. We want our doctors to be well trained & it is imperative that they know what they are doing, and know their "craft" inside out & backwards. It makes sense from a professional point of view, but it can be hard from an emotional point of view.
During the training years, doctors typically don't receive their work schedules until they are starting that month's rotation, or a week or two before. That means that while we currently have my husband's schedule for May, we don't have his schedule for anything beyond that. We know which rotations he'll have which months for about the next year, but we don't know what his assigned hours or days off will be within those rotations. He schedules vacation time over a year in advance, so we know when he'll have vacation for the 2012-2013 year, but other than that, we cannot plan anything. Planning for a weekend trip more than a month in advance isn't possible. Actually, a weekend day off is hard to come by most months. We've had multiple months this past year where we literally didn't have any days off work together. We never know if he'll be available for a holiday party, or a family get-together until just before it. RSVPing to things is somewhat of a problem. My answer to most things is "I'll be there, he may or may not... we'll let you know".
Even planning for evening get-togethers can be difficult. He may technically get out around 6, but he may not actually leave the hospital until hours later.
All this is to say, the life of a doctor's spouse can be very unpredictable. It can involve moves across the country that you nor your doctor-spouse have any control over (thanks to the match for residency & fellowship programs). Family-planning has to be carefully thought out if possible. Especially if the doctor-spouse is the wife. Friends & family must learn to be understanding of the challenges that the couple faces when making long & short term plans. Lastly, the spouse has to have a thick skin, and hopefully lots of friends & hobbies! A lot of time can be spent alone, so finding good productive ways to use that time is important. Also, knowing & accepting that your spouse is often exhausted and/or not available, resulting in your having to be responsible for a lot of things at home that would normally be shared responsibilities between the two of you.
I love my husband & wouldn't give him up or trade him in for anything. This is our life & our own choose your own adventure :-) I hope this helps to clarify some of what doctors & their families lives are like. If you are dating a soon-to-be-doctor, or have any questions, feel free to ask!