“When you marry a doctor, you are sharing that person with medicine.” ~My father
Relationships in the normal world face challenges with things such as communication, finances, intimacy. Relationships with people in the medical world are no exception. However, they do have their own set of unique challenges. Luckily, they also have some unique benefits! Below I go through some pros and cons of relationships with a medical student or resident. Of course, there are many different personalities in medicine, but some challenges will be universal. If you’re considering getting into a relationship with a doctor in training, keep in mind that there are also some fields that have a “better work/life balance” such as radiology or dermatology.
Pro: We are Caring and Empathetic
Med school admission interviews have put a higher emphasis on interpersonal skills and compassion for others. It’s not just a cliché we say at interviews, we truly love helping people. If you date a medical student or resident, they will be more likely to be in tune with your feelings and care about what is happening in your life. The vast majority of us will listen with an open mind and accept you for who you are.
Con: We are Busy
This is truly an understatement. Whether it be during the first 2 years of medical school when we study all day for constant exams, the second 2 years of medical school when we are constantly in the hospital and studying for exams, or residency working 80 hours a week, there is very little free time. That being said, we also learn how to prioritize the things we care about. If that is running 3 times a week or dinner with friends and family, medical students and residents fit in what is important to them. Although we try to make time for our loved ones, partners will often have to find new ways to entertain themselves alone, sometimes even on evenings and weekends. This can be an adjustment for some people.
Con: Unpredictable Hours
Related to being busy, we often keep unpredictable hours. To enter the field of medicine require sacrifices, and one major sacrifice is time. We will not be able to make every birthday or wedding, and we will often be late returning home from the hospital. If a patient needs us, we will be there for them. We will try to schedule, but things never go exactly as planned. You will have to be forgiving for these delays, and we’ll try to communicate when possible. If we are stuck at the hospital overnight on a slow day, you can try to meet up for dinner in the hospital cafeteria to get some face to face time. Of course, this is unfortunately not an option during the current pandemic.
Pro: We are Driven and Career-Oriented
Whichever field we choose to enter, we will work hard and eventually have a salary that anyone could live on comfortably. We will also be making a difference in peoples’ lives every day. Although it can be stressful at times, medicine is an immensely rewarding career. We survived medical school, so we can survive any challenges that life could throw at us in the future.
Con: We Often Carry Massive Student Loan Debt
While our earning potential as doctors is quite good, it takes a while to get there. Most residents allocate more than they would like of their already small paycheck to pay off loans. These loans can be as much as $500,000 for students who were out of state and took out loans for both undergraduate and medical education. This can take decades to pay off. So don’t date a student or resident for their money. We don’t have any, and it’ll take us many years to reach a cushy salary.
Pro: Free and Timely Diagnosis of All Your Aches and Pains
Although this may be a con for the actual medical student/resident, everyone in the family is excited to have a person to field all of their medical questions. It can be nice to get the reassurance that your cold does not require a visit to your doctor or your baby’s rash is just acne. We are also great at removing splinters and dressing minor cuts and scrapes. We are usually BLS and ACLS trained, so we’re ready to respond in case of an emergency. That being said, we should NEVER replace a medical provider beyond first aid and information sharing.
Con: We Only talk About Medicine When We Get Together with Other Doctors
Everything is so new and exciting, so we will always have stories to share with our medical friends. These stories are often, at minimum, too technical to understand, or at most, too grotesque to even want to hear for non-medical partners. We forget what is appropriate dinner conversation. You can try to change the subject to something more palatable, but I will apologize now, somehow it always gets back to medicine.
Con: Your Goals May Be Put on Hold to Support Your Partner
Many people who are just beginning a career in medicine are also at the stage of starting a family, whether it be starting a serious relationship, getting married, or having children. Not only are we creating career goals, but our partners may be as well. Problems arise when these career goals clash. For example, the matching process cannot be predicted and can force an unwanted move. Some couples decide to do long-distance over this time period. Others choose to relocate, and partners must find a new job. Neither decision can be made lightly, as people can feel resentment for leaving a dream job or loneliness from living far away.
Of late, people are deciding to delay when they have children until after graduation from medical school or residency. Others make the time to go to school and have children. This is also a very personal decision. Either way, we are locked into 4 years of medical school and another 3-5 years of residency where we have little flexibility of our schedule. Compromises must be made, and there just isn’t that much wiggle room to work within the resident schedule.
Is Dating/Marrying an Aspiring Physician Right For You?
This is obviously a very personal decision, but the answer depends on what you are looking for. Like I said above, we are caring, empathetic, driven, career-oriented, courageous, and full of knowledge, but we are also busy and often have massive student loan debt.
I personally am glad that I scheduled time during medical school for dating. My partner was very accepting that I sometimes was late or even had to cancel dates to study. It has paid off, as we got engaged on the day I graduated from medical school. I know that the challenges of being in a relationship will not get any easier as I transition into residency, but I hope we have built the steppingstones of communication and trust needed to survive residency.
What challenges have you faced in a relationship with a medical student/resident? Are you a medical student/resident that has faced unique challenges with relationships? Do you have any other advice for others? Please share!