How to date (or marry) a med student....

Monday, April 1, 2013

Joining my second Medical Mondays today (I loved meeting fellow med students, docs, and medical families last month!). For the first Medical Mondays, I recapped a day on General Surgery; this month I decided to give my take on what dating (or marrying!) a med student is really like (adapted from this article). In the near future, I'm hoping to write a series on my journey through med school (applying, first year, second year, Step I, third year, residency applications...) 

At my white coat ceremony almost three years ago (poor guy had no idea what he was in for.)
Shortly before I started medical school, I came across an article on "How to Date a Med Student." Reading it now, at the end of my third year, I have to admit that it was pretty accurate.

All bullets in quotation marks taken from this article
  • "Don't expect to see them. Ever."
    • Not completely true...Stephen lived an hour and a half away from me during my first two years of medical school and would come visit me most weekends. Unfortunately, most weekends during first and second year were spent studying like a fiend, so he ended up spending more time watching TV with my aunt (who I lived with) than me when he came to visit.
  • "Accept the fact they will have many affairs. With their books."
    • Probably true. I have a gazillion boxes in our basement right now of books and notes (something in me just cannot get rid of my notes from first and second year even though Step 1 is over and I most likely will never, ever look at them again).
  •  "Learn to hide your “ew, gross” reactions when they tell you all the stuff you never wanted to know about your bodily functions."
    • This one's definitely true. Starting in gross anatomy lab, continuing through all aspects of human physiology, and culminating in my OB-GYN rotation. I loved OB-GYN, so Stephen got to hear about pretty much At least he'll be prepared for our future first babe.
  • "Support them when they come home after each test, upset because they failed—and gently remind them after they get their well above passing grade how unnecessary the “I’m going to fail out of medical school and never become an MD” dramatics are."
    • Ha. This was me after most tests (I blame it on my very first anatomy written exam which destroyed many previous years of test-taking confidence). Stephen actually started to get concerned when I didn't come home after a test freaking out. The worse of this was after my Step 1 exam. I honestly cried several times per week about how terrible I did for the entire month after the exam while I was waiting to get my results. And it truly speaks to Stephen's character that after I finally got my results (in the top percentage and average for plastic surgery/derm) he didn't say one word. I love that boy.
  • "Each week they will have a new illness. Some will be extremely rare, others will be more mundane. Doesn’t matter. They will be certain they have it (no second opinions necessary.) Med school can, and will, turn even the sanest into a hypochondriac. Date them for long enough, and you’ll become one too."
    • Since I worked as an ER nurse for two years prior to medical school, I thought that I would be immune to Med Student Syndrome (a.k.a. thinking that you have every disease). Nope. I would give you the list of diseases and syndromes I have diagnosed myself with in the last two years but it would be kind of embarrassing. Also, I have diagnosed Stephen with everything from lymphoma to Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Opthalmic Outburst syndrome. 
  • "They'll make you hyper-aware that germs are everywhere and on everything. Even though you used to walk into your home with your shoes on, and sit on your bed in the same clothes you just wore while riding the subway, or sat on a public bench in, you'll become far too disgusted to ever do it again. Believe me, it's going to get'll watch yourself transform into the anal retentive person you swore you'd never become. And when you witness others perform these same acts that, before you began dating your med student, you spent your entire life doing too, you'll wince and wonder, “Ew! How can they do that? Don't they know how many germs and bacteria they're spreading??!”
    • I was weird about this before med school, and I'm still weird about it. And yes, now Stephen is weird about it. Our kids are going to be total germ-a-phobes.
  • "Romantic date = Chinese take-out in front of the TV on their 10 minute study break."
    • True that. 
  • "A vacation together consists of a trip down the street to Walgreens for new highlighters and printer paper."
    • Office Max, but okay.
  • "Their study habits will make you feel like a complete slacker. For them, hitting the books 8-to-10 hours a day is not uncommon, nor difficult. You'll wonder how you ever managed to pass school on your meager one hour of studying per night."
    • Well, I don't know if he felt like a complete slacker as much as 100% grateful that he wasn't the one studying 8, 10, or 12 hours a day. We did study together when he was finishing his paramedic, but unfortunately that meant 2 hours for him which was only a dent in my weekend study marathons. And I have to say that since med school, I have wondered how I got through college and MCAT studying on an average of an hour of studying a few times/week (a little more on the weekends). Those days are long, long gone.
  • "They're expected to know everything. Everything! The name of the 8 billion-lettered, German sounding cell that lives in the depths of your inner ear, the technical term for the “no one's ever heard of this disease” disease that exists only on one foot of the Southern tip of the African continent. But ask them if your knee is swollen, or what you should do to tame your mucous-filled cough, or why the heck your head feels like someone's been drilling through it for oil for two weeks straight, and they won't have a clue."
    • Hilarious, but kind of true. First and second year especially were full of obscure things that we had to memorize (all the cytokines, rare parasites, bacterial genetics, that little teeny tiny nerve in your left pinky toe, the list goes on). And if it weren't for my prior nursing knowledge, I wouldn't have had a clue on common/basic medical questions. Actually, the further I got into first year, the less I remembered about the things I saw every day working in the ER.
  • “My brain's filled with so much information, I can't be expected to remember THAT!" will be the standard excuse for forgetting anniversaries, birthdays, and, if you get this far, probably the birth of your first-born."
    • It's unfortunately ingrained in my memory the first birthday that I forgot, my little sister's 8th. The sad thing is that I remembered it two weeks later. And then I cried. Twice. I wish I could say that it never happened again after that, but I have forgotten my close friends' birthdays multiple times since (and I probably would have forgotten family members again too except that now my mom calls and warns me before each one).
So medical school is crazy. Any significant others/spouses of med students/residents/etc. can attest to that. But in case I've scared any potential future medical students, the bright side is that things do get better (well, after the first two years of medical school at least...I can't speak to residency). And ultimately, being in medical school actually strengthened our relationship (we got married at the beginning of third year!) because I realized that Stephen's love and support was unconditional.


  1. this is so, so true! my hubby and i met right before i started med school and has been with me through school, residency, and now fellowship... sometimes i wonder how he's put up with me for so long! at least this year it will all be paying off {figuratively and literally} when i get my first real job! :)

    1. hey em, why are you up at 4am? cannot sleep???
      You're almost done with fellowship! soooooo jealous

  2. Thanks for linking up with Medical Mondays, and ditto to the above - you nailed it!

  3. This is so interesting to me (despite no med-school significant other) because DH is in law school, and has been in grad school for the past five years) and so many of the points could cross over with little twists! I'm not sure I would have believed that a person could study until 1am every single night and get up at 6 and be off and going, without going crazy until watching him for the past two years. I keep thinking: It's so close! It's almost over (okay, in 13 months) but then comes the bar studying and I've been told "the bar is to law school what espresso is to coffee..." I am totally amazed by how much studying goes into certain fields!

  4. Visiting from Medical Mondays! All great points, and definitely what I needed to hear as the husband is buried in boards studying!

  5. wow... impressive!
    true, true, true!

    thanks for sharing medical mondays! im definitely linking up and you opened the door to the blog world of medically related crazy peeps out there for me to follow :)

  6. This is a great post!! Not many bloggers out there that I follow are doing what you're doing so it's fun to get an "inside scoop" on that life! Thanks for sharing! :)

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Great post! These points are so true. My husband and I got married after Med 1 and although he had no clue what he was getting into before med school, I feel like he at least made a somehat educated decision to stick around for the long haul.

  9. I love this post... I feel like you just described my life perfectly! Happy Medical Mondays!

  10. I will be on both sides of this. Chris (my boyfriend) is a 3rd year so I've been doing this whole med school girlfriend for 3 years now, but next year we'll both be in it (at separate schools obviously) and then he'll be done and I'll still have 3 more years. I think the biggest thing is just realizing how much work a med student has to be put in, and that they are always on edge about something, either getting the grades, the board scores, the rotation feedback, the letters, the so on and so forth. Working together to figure out how to best accommodate that takes time but eventually it gets easier. I think the other person in the relationship has to be good at being independent and doing stuff by themselves.

  11. Loved the post... I am an OT dating a MS3, we met in his 2nd year. Honestly, our relationship is so much better now than it was when it began, even though he is at least 2 hours away any given rotation... it was SOOOOO hard in the beginning when we first met, because that is the time in a relationship when you are still feeling each other out and figure out what they think about you. I misinterpreted all of his ditches and cancellations in the worst possible ways... but now, we are so far past that... and I figure there must be something pretty amazing to be keeping us attached despite the hurdles. We have figured out how to talk, how to plan, and how to support each other to work around those barriers and make the most of the time we do get to spend together! I'm pretty sure I googled that exact same article when I was going through a tough time near the beginning stages. :) It was also how I stumbled upon this blog circle!
    Anyway, hope to add you to my reading list just as soon as I figure out how it works- HA! :)

  12. Thanks for the Medical Monday link up! I started chatting with Marissa after she wrote that article you are referencing. She had some great insights!

    Enjoy the next two years! They are exciting!

  13. Great post - loved your insights!

    Found you via MM Blog Hop! Enjoy your journey together!

    Ray Doc Wife

  14. Oh my goodness... I read that and think it's a miracle anyone can make it through med school with an intact relationship! I will say the "slacker" thing never goes away. Doc always seem to have them hands busy with way too much "stuff"!


Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment! Your lovely comments really make my day :) I appreciate and enjoy every comment even though I don't always have time to reply.

(I also often reply via email, unless you are a no-reply blogger).