5 Tips for Surviving Medical School (From a Med Student Wife!)
By: LL McKenzie
Dear incoming med student and spouse… Welcome to the club! The next years are not going to be easy but I assure it will go by faster than you think. The days may seem long but the years go by fast! It seems like just yesterday my husband was a first year med student and we were eager to start this new adventure. We were excited to meet new people and create a new life here in the south! Little did I know the challenges we would face the moment med school began as well as the exciting opportunities me & my husband would face. These are a few tips that I wish someone had shared with me prior to joining this elite club! So I thought I would let you in on a few secrets…
1. Work as a team
My biggest piece of advice I give to any medical school spouse is to work as a team. The key to a successful med school journey is simply working together and knowing when to give each other space, study time or together time. It is important to make time for each other. My husband and I try to find one night every week and put our chores and studying aside to relax and just enjoy each other’s company.
Med school can be very stressful on your spouse and it is important to be on the same page and communicate with one another. Don’t be afraid to let your spouse know when you need some attention too! While your spouse may be doing all the hard work in school you deserve just as much credit for you have to hold down the fort and offer constant support. You become their biggest cheerleader and source of motivation.
2. Find your tribe
I recently came across this quote “find your tribe and love them hard”. This hit home for me because the process of medical school is long and grueling. It is important to create a support system with friends and family to help you get through those hard times. My husband and I look forward to the day when we get to spoil all of those in our “tribe” who have been cheering us on throughout this experience. Everyone’s tribe will be different. I know for some med student wives they find support at the school’s SAA (which is an organization for significant others to support each other in med school). You may also find support from a church group, school group or even a neighbor. My neighbor is one of my closest friends and I don’t know where I would be without her. So go find your tribe & love them hard!
3. Ask for help
I know firsthand how much my role as a med school wife has helped my husband to succeed but every once in awhile I feel like the walls are caving in. I start thinking ‘how on earth will we ever get through this experience?!?’ Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Life can get overwhelming and it is important to take time for you! Medical school was not built for families, especially older non-traditional ones like ours.
Remember student loans are only budgeted by the school to cover the cost of the student; not their spouse nor their dependents. We soon realized that we would have difficulty-making ends meet on student loans alone so we started applying to government assistance programs. There is no way we would have survived the past three years if it were not for these programs. They helped put food on our tables and covered the costs of our sick children. Government assistance was built for situations like ours, so don’t be afraid or ashamed to use them. Remember, you’ll one day be paying back your fair share in taxes to help fund these programs when your spouse becomes a physician.
4. Be flexible
You will find that med school can be very unpredictable at times, so flexibility is key. Try to remember, don’t expect your spouse to be able to come to every holiday or family event – it helped me not be too disappointed if he got stuck at the hospital. My kids and I really value and cherish the time we do have with my husband. His days off are usually jammed packed with what I like to refer to as “the clipboard of fun”!
5. Find a hobby
The first two years of med school my husband spent most of his time studying in our home office or school library. At first I loved having the TV to myself to watch my favorite shows, but I soon realized how lonely my nights had become. I decided to fill those nights with hobbies to keep me busy. Go find things you love to do and do them! I created my blog after my husband started med school and it has been my favorite hobby ever! I love passing on tips and tricks to my readers! Don’t be surprised if you end up starting a few new hobbies, like teaching yourself to do handy work around the house or learning how to garden to save some money at the grocery store. Whatever you do, have fun with it… you deserve it!
Lastly, it do not put your life on hold during this experience. Just because you are going through med school doesn’t mean you should stop living! Travel and explore the beautiful state or country you live in. Med school is a journey worth taking in and experiencing. The best part of our experience has been hearing our oldest daughter talk about wanting to become a pediatrician! We firmly believe these experiences, difficult at times, have created the root for what is to come in our medical/life journey. I know residency will have its highs and lows but we will get through it as a family.
LL McKenzie is the wife of a medical student and blogs about her experiences with medicine, family, and travels at TravelingFabFive.com. She can be reached there, or on her twitter account at @TravelinFabFive. Give her blog a read and her twitter a follow!
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