Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The First Year of Medical School

With Ben in his full first week of the second year of medical school, I found myself googling "medical school significant other blog" to get some insight into this insane roller-coaster (at every turn I think - I am sure someone learned this once and could give me some insight on how to make this less difficult, why must I learn it over and over again?!). I found those blogs but I didn't quite find what I was looking for. It dawned on me that perhaps I needed to write it, and so here are some thoughts on this process and what we have and haven't learned so far.

Ben started medical school in August 2013, after a two year break from school and a one year medical school application and testing process. It has always been his dream and there was never any question of whether or not he was going to apply and attend. It was just a looming fact. The transition from a working boyfriend to a boyfriend in school (and medical school at that) has not been easy. There are a few major pieces of the medical school puzzle that everyone warns you about, yet you don't quite prepare for:

1. You'll be switching from a dual income to just one (in most cases. Exceptions being: stay at home parents are usually switching from one income to none). And you'll be the one income... for upwards of four years. Medical students have measly cost of living loans. And it certainly helps a single med student pay for a room in a shared apartment or house (usually without a view), but it doesn't even approach supporting two people, a lifestyle you've become accustomed to during college/post-college work, or luxuries like eating out all the time.

2. You'll be switching from a partner that has time to make dinner, cook, clean, and love you, to a partner that barely has the energy to shower, exercise, or shave. If you're a needy person or even someone accustomed to finding new adventures and activities to do together, the transition will be rough. Right away, you'll need to identify your own hobbies, adventures and find some local friends that do love the same.

3. You'll be switching from pursuing your own dreams and having a partner that helps make that happen, to being bound to the dreams of your partner. I think that there is a lot of sacrifice that goes into following your medical student across the globe for their schooling, residency, and finally, practice. You'll be the one saying no to a job that might move you across the country. You'll be the support system for many years. Be ready for this, accept this, and don't hold it against your significant other. Your time to pursue your dreams either needs to fit in the geographic space of where you live together, or can wait until your significant other is practicing.

4. You'll be switching from a common friend group (if you move for medical school), to a friend group made up entirely of your significant other's med school friends. You'll quickly realize that there is little that is less interesting than listening to 2-10 people discuss medical problems, professors, and engaging in arguments over how much of X drug to give patient Y presenting with Z symptoms. Seek out (and by that I mean have your partner seek out) other students with a significant other that's also a non-med student. You'll find that they exist and they're usually pretty awesome.

So what's that first year really like?

1. Studying: Ben woke up at 6:45 a.m., got ready for class, left home at 7:30 to arrive at 8:00 a.m. He was in class from 12-2 (depending on the day - some days go until 5 p.m.). After class, he'd hunker down in a study room on campus until 6-7 p.m. Upon getting home, he'd prepare or eat dinner and sit back down at his study desk to study until bedtime (11:30 or midnight). On weekends, he usually took Friday nights off to do a date night and then studied from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. on saturday and 9 a.m. -8 p.m. on Sunday

2. Chores: Ben pretty much lost the capacity to shower at one point due to exhaustion, so he wasn't doing any vacuuming or laundry or cleaning of any kind. The one thing he did do was cook (mainly because I am miserable at it), but there were many nights where I needed to take over as a test approached.

3. Hobbies and activities: Depending on your roles in the house and your interests, your S.O. usually will have time to continue doing one activity. They say that in med school you get to pick one extracurricular other than school. Ben certainly picked our relationship, committing to date nights and cooking for us and making time to explore Portland. He kind of had to ditch: working out, brewing, and friend-time (other than when we spent it together on a rare night off).

4. Moods: The constant studying, exam, pass/fail stress of medical school will destroy your S.O.'s mood. It's tough and it's understandable. You'll need to be the good mood motivator in the bunch even when it's hard. Know when to retreat to your room to get on Pinterest/go for a walk/watch a movie with headphones in. And know when they need you to make them a hot chocolate and force them in to bed.

5. Extra commitments: If you want to plan a wedding, get a puppy, re-furnish the house... get ready to do it solo. Your S.O. is already so over-committed to studying that it's not fair to loop them in on your extracurriculars. If you do need their input, approach it on a non-test week and make a plan for getting their assistance when they have a free second.

This all being said, the journey through medical school has not been as terrible as we were told. We heard that it'd ruin our relationship/we'd never make it through/I was stupid for going along. I think it has been an amazing opportunity for me to grow, for Ben to pursue his dreams, and for me to branch out of my just-Ben-and-I comfort zone into the Portland blogging scene, into my work, and into growing my blog. It has certainly been very difficult and launching into year 2, we are faced with many of the same issues (time and affection being two of the biggest hurdles), but ready to conquer them as we did the obstacles of year 1. In the end, it's doable, but you need to be ready for it, willing to change your perspective on what your relationship is in the moment, and be a big support system for a very pathetic medical student!


  1. If you've never checked out you should. She's written a lot about this topic as well :)

  2. eric did pharm school and residency and it was really hard for me so i can understand your feelings! hang in there and keep telling yourself it's worth it b/c now that it's all over and he has a great career with awesome hours that allows me stay home with our baby, it was totally worth it. =)

  3. Hopefully writing about it helped a little :) Best of luck! I'm sure you'll make it through to the other side.

  4. This post is so incredible to read, especially now that I got admitted into Medical School. I truly admire your dedication and your special one's courage to pursuit his dream! I was lucky to decide in my third year of highschool this is what I want to do and I'm so happy I managed to be admitted. Everyone says the first two years are unbearable and that 30% quit, at least here in Romania it applies. There are a lot of hours needed for study and I can see this from your post as well. I have to say, I'm more motivated to keep studying just as much as I did during highschool after reading this!

    Have a lovely week,
    Mary x

  5. When you don't find what you want to read, write it! My husband isn't in medical school but is about to begin his first year teaching full-time, and I found many of your points to ring true. I need to make the mental shift from expecting him to be home and participate and help to building up some more independence for me and our daughter. I wish you more luck as your partner starts his second year!

  6. It's true. You have to take things one step at a time. And your dress is super pretty so if you start to feel overwhelmed, just stare at your dress until you feel better :)

  7. I always love to read about people and/or their spouses in medical school. I've known several people over the years who have completed's a very tough yet rewarding journey! :)

  8. What a fun dress! Love how unique it is!

  9. This is such a great and helpful post! Congrats to both of you for making it through your first year and good luck + best wishes for the rest of it :) xx

    Little Miss Katy | UK Lifestyle & Fashion

  10. way to go, ben! and way to go, you!! i have friends who supported their partners through this - heck, i even considered medical school (but kids got in the way, lol!). it's not easy, but know that you will reap the rewards in the end. congrats!!!

  11. It sounds like a challenging season in life, but if he chose your relationship as his one activity I'm sure you'll both come through!

  12. i can relate to this post SO MUCH, as my bf is a second year resident and we dated throughout his time in med school. hang in there! it will get better, i swear. also, i totally agree that there should be a blog for the significant others of med school students!



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