Medical school is a long and grueling process. Students have a ton of studying to do, often on little sleep, and the whole thing is stressful and competitive. Everyone knows what the students go through, but it’s harder to know what you should expect as a med school wife (or husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, or fiancé).
For Husband and I, year one of med school is over and he is already in the thick of year two. We survived year one! It was no walk in the park, though. A LOT has changed since then, and much of it has been for the better.
Maybe you’re just beginning life with a medical student and want to know what you’ve gotten yourself into. Maybe your significant other is in the process of applying for med school. In any case, these are all the things I’ve learned about life as a first-year med school wife.
It will take time to adjust
You may have to move to a new city for your significant other to start med school. If that’s the case, you’re probably leaving friends, family, and familiarity behind. What makes that even harder is that you’ll be doing most of the adjusting and exploring on your own as soon as they start school.
Even if you don’t have to move, the life you had with your significant other will change. You will have a lot less time together. For many people, med school also means having to implement a stricter budget as you watch the student debt pile up.
Things will be hard. Some days you may cry and wonder what you got yourself into. Know that it’s normal, and give yourself time. Little by little, it will get easier. Things will get better.
The stress is real
Med school is every bit as hard as everyone makes it out to be. It’s one thing knowing it, though, and a completely different thing living it with your significant other.
There will be long nights, early mornings, countless hours spent studying, and exam weeks from hell. It’s very likely that your student will be more stressed out than you’ve ever seen them before. You never want to see them unhappy, so it’s hard to watch the pressure pile on.
All of that can affect your relationship and your own happiness. I’ve found, though, that the best way to help with the stress is to understand that…
Medical school will consume all your student’s time
Considering the hours that are necessary to be successful in med school, it’s no surprise that things such as laundry, dishes, and housework will get left by the wayside. No matter what arrangement you had about housework before, they will not have time for any of that now.
The best way to relieve some of their stress is to give them less to worry about. Make dinner, do the laundry, go grocery shopping, pack lunches, pay the bills. I guarantee that they will appreciate it and it will improve your relationship, even if they have too much on their mind to thank you in the moment.
The last thing you want to do is take time away from their studies. I’ve found that Med school students are like cats. They’re not helpful around the house but you love them anyways. No matter how much you love them and want to cuddle them, though, you have to wait until they come to you.
There is a lot you don’t yet know about how to become a doctor
It’s not as simple as going to medical school for four years and then becoming a doctor. There are board exams, clinical rotations that you may do in one location or many, residency, matching into a residency, and a whole lot more.
Since you’re along for the ride, you’ll find yourself trying to figure all this out alongside your student. Especially if you’re the planning type, the confusion and uncertainty about where you are going to end up might drive you nuts but fear not.
You will figure it out as you go
Before you know it, you will start to pick things up. Pretty soon, you will know what an OSCE is and when they need to take the Step 1. You might not know everything yet, like when they need to take the Step 2 and Step 3, but you will have more confidence in the fact that you will get it all figured out it when you need to.
This will help you get better at going with the flow of med school. I no longer agonize over what is coming up and where we’ll end up in a few years. One of the things that has aided me in letting this go is the people I’ve met along the way. Which brings me to…
You are not alone
When school first starts, there is orientation for the students and they get to know the other people in their class. During all this, you might feel like you’re on the outside looking in, but you’ll soon find that there are lots of other people in the same position as you.
Get to know these other med school wives, husbands, boyfriends, and girlfriends. They will become your close friends and some of the only people who understand the struggles of having a significant other who is in med school.
Between this new friend group and other resources, you will learn everything from what to expect in your next year of med school, to the best cities and hospitals you and your student may go to along the way.
Your relationship will get stronger
There are a lot of relationship changes that will happen while your student is in med school. Maybe you’ve moved to a new city and you have to learn how to rely on each other more. Maybe med school means a shift in what each person brings to the relationship, such as when I stopped working full time in order to support Husband at home while he is in school.
It is hard to keep the stress of medical school from creeping into your relationship. At first, you may fight more, feel lonely, and wish things were different. But if you’ve made the commitment to stick by each other through good times, bad times, and exam weeks, you will work it out.
Not only that, but every time you work things out your relationship will become stronger. Then, when new challenges arise, you can meet them knowing that things have been hard before and you both have worked through it together.
You can enjoy the ride
Medical school comes with plenty of uncertainty, sacrifice, hard work, and tears. There will be moments when you hate the situation you’re in. You might even hate your significant other for asking so much of you while they’re in school. Overall, though, you can choose to look at each change and challenge as an adventure and a learning opportunity.
Medical school has taken Husband and me from the Midwest to the Caribbean. As someone who has a hate-hate relationship with change, I was at first really apprehensive about the move. We went through some rough times at first getting used to our new island home and his med school schedule, but now I wouldn’t trade this time for anything.
Unlike this time last year, I am now looking forward to the rest of medical school, changes and all. I’m excited to see where else this journey will take us and who we will meet along the way. If I’m going to be with him through this process, I may as well make the best of it and enjoy the little things.
There you have it! Those are the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a year-one med school wife. It seems like a lot, and I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting. If you take nothing else away, though, remember this:
It will be hard, but you can do it. Do what you can to help your student, and you’ll both get through med school just fine.
Do you have questions about being a med school wife, husband, or significant other? Are you already on the journey through med school with your student and have other advice you would like to share? Comment below!