Y’all ready for this?

If you just thought of Jock Jams when you read the title, we could be friends.

"Pump up the jam, pump it up!" Photo credit: ew.com

“Pump up the jam, pump it up!”
Photo credit: ew.com

Your life partner/fiance/husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other is contemplating med school. That’s awesome! What an admirable profession to seek?! A job seen with such respect in our country, helping those in need, saving lives! They’ve thought about it and are ready to take the plunge, but are you?

In the U.S., when we hear med school, we think “doctor” and think “money”. This association may be true in several years (or decades, loans ain’t cheap, as evidenced here), but right now it can more accurately be associated with some of the following words: long-hours, debt, sleep deprivation, limited spare time, emotional and psychological toll. Yowza, right? Ok, ok, I’m not trying to scare you here. But I am trying to make you think about some of the tough questions. A more glamorous future may lie ahead but first it has to be earned. Now some tough love.

They will study a lot. Nights of languishing around your apartment watching The Daily Show or heading to the bar with friends will no longer be a frequent occurrence. It may not even be a weekly occurrence. Make the nights that you do have count! Also, accept that they may not be able to attend every holiday party or friend’s wedding.

They will be very poor. According the AAMC, the average amount of debt for medical students attending public universities is $150,000 and the average for those attending private universities is 176,000. Houses, cars, bills, student loan debt from undergrad or grad school. Man, that adds up, not to mention interest that could collect over the life of the loan. Your house isn’t going to look like it was pulled from the pages of Dwell and you will not likely be vacationing in Bora Bora anytime soon.

I have a couple of expensive hats too.Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

I have a couple of expensive hats too.
Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

They will be under extreme stress. Four years is not a long time to learn all about the human body, how it is supposed to function normally and all the things that could be causing it to malfunction. The pace is rapid with frequent quizzes and exams. Every exam counts. Fail a test and it’s bad. Fail two and they may be done. They may not be as aware of your problems and stressors. Try not to take it personally.

They will face tough ethical and emotional barriers. We all know it is part of the job, but when the day comes when your med student makes that first cut into a patient or a cadaver, they will (hopefully, if they are of sound psychological standing!) feel a little weird about it. It will feel wrong. They will lose patients, be unable to cure someone, not be able to help quickly enough. Work on listening and empathizing.

They will have a weird schedule. They may have clinic hours one morning at 5 a.m. and then be up until 2 a.m. studying. They may not have a lot of free time. Adapt. And make the most of it when they do.

They probably won’t want to talk to you about med school. They talk about it all day. They talk and think about it with their friends/classmates. You can bring an interesting perspective on something non-related: about what is going on in your world, the world at large, the world of your shared friends and in a non-medical school life. They’ll tell you the important stuff. You get to be the escape. It’s a good thing:)

I may start too many of my stories with "I heard on NPR..."Photo credit: NPR

I may start too many of my stories with “I heard on NPR…”
Photo credit: NPR

Now, you. Are you generally independent? Are you okay being alone? Do you have good financial sense? Can you cut people slack or let the little things slide on occasion? Are you generally optimistic? Do you mind running errands that aren’t yours sometimes?  Are you comfortable laying down your own personal ground rules and holding firm on them? Do you have a strong support team for yourself? Can you make a mean pot of coffee? If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, you sound like you are ready for the challenge.

But take heed: just because your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife is in medical school, that doesn’t mean you become the minion or the punching bag. Set the rules and call them out when needed.


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