If your husband is a medical student, you know how hard it can be. He is studying at all times of the day and night. He has seemingly endless tests. He has to learn the equivalent of an entire semester of a college class in two weeks. It is hard and he is often under a lot of stress.
And so you, as the wife of a medical student, have a lot to deal with! It’s hard for you too. You are trying to support a stressed-out hubby while also keeping the house under control, sometimes working your own job, and trying to cope with the loneliness of having your husband gone all of the time.
Can I tell you a secret though? It is possible for you to not only survive but THRIVE in medical school! I know it’s possible because we did it. I really did love our four years of medical school. Did I love every single second?! No, of course there were times where I wished we could just be done already! But I overall enjoyed it. We made some lifelong friends, had our first son, and grew so much in marriage.
Here are my 10 tips for the wife of a medical student. These things were key to us thriving during medical school and I know they can help you too.
1. Create a Study Area In Your House
If it’s possible for you to create a study area in your house, do it! It’s even better if it’s in a separate room with a door so he can close out the noise and distractions and really focus. If you have an area where he can study then he will be more likely to study at home instead of on campus.
My DrH studied at home throughout medical school and it worked out great for us. My son’s room also doubled as our “office”, so when he wasn’t napping or sleeping my husband would study at his desk in there. I loved it because when he took a study break he could come out and spend a few minutes with his family. If he had studied exclusively on campus I would have seen him much less during medical school.
Now I know that studying at home isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t able to focus at home and study much better on campus. But give it a try by making a study-friendly area in your home. If it works out for your family you won’t regret it.
2. Make Time Together a Priority
Medical school is demanding on your spouse. He has to somehow learn this crazy amount of information, then hope to retain some of it so he can do well on his tests. On top of his regular medical school tests he has his board exams he has to study for as well, which largely determine which specialty he can be. It is hard and it will seem like he is studying constantly. He will feel like he has no time for his family.
But please, please please – don’t give in to that misconception. You will have time to spend together, both as a family and as a couple, if you both choose to make the time. It may not be as much time as you both want, but you can still have a thriving relationship during medical school.
Have a conversation with your husband about how and when you will spend time together. Schedule it out! I know that sounds crazy and a little over-the-top, but if you don’t plan on it it won’t happen.
And don’t forget to date during medical school!! Even if it’s a cheap date to Taco Bell or going on a walk together, having time together to nurture your marriage is so so important. Don’t stop dating each other just because your spouse is in medical school!
3. Be Realistic About Your Expectations
Remember, as you are trying to make time together a priority, also be realistic about your expectations. It would be unrealistic for you to expect that you will spend 2-3 hours together everyday. And there’s no way you will be able to go out to eat, on a date, every single Friday night. A med school budget can’t handle that!
When my DrH was in medical school, I had heard all of the horror stories from people. I had heard how I would never see him during those 4 years. So, at the very beginning of med school, I sat him down and told him what I needed. I said all I needed was an hour a day from him – and that INCLUDED dinner-time together. So really, 30 min to eat dinner and talk plus just 30 additional minutes of us-time. And that’s it!
We both felt like those were realistic expectations. I mean, he has to eat everyday, right? And he was able to give me that time almost every single day during our 4 years of medical school. Of course there were times when it didn’t happen, but we tried our best to make sure it did – our time together was a high priority for us.
Also, be realistic about your expectations as far as finances go. Be realistic about what you can and can’t afford and what you can include in your budget.
4. Share Your Schedules With Each Other
I think this one is so important! Find a way to share your schedules with each other – whether that’s on a traditional paper calendar or in an online version. It’s so nice to know what’s coming up for the both of you so you can plan and support each other.
During medical school my DrH created a shared Google calendar with me that included his medical school schedule. It included class times as well as upcoming tests. I also created a shared calendar that included what we had going on in our family – upcoming vacations, dinners with friends, and doctors appointments – so he knew what was going on at home.
We loved having something like this so we could easily look at our online calendars and get a snapshot of what is going on in each other’s lives. If I saw that a test was coming up for him I could plan ahead by trying extra hard to make home a non-stressful place to be or by giving him his space so he could study.
5. Create a Support System For Yourself
Don’t solely rely on your husband for your social interactions. If you do, you’re going to get lonely and frustrated fast. He just doesn’t have the time to fill all of your social needs!
So get out there and create a support system for yourself. Make some solid, amazing friendships. You will need other people throughout this medical journey – so go out and find them.
Find them at church, at work, while volunteering in your community, or at local mom meetups. And if you can, try to find at least one other medical school wife who gets what you’re going through.
I made some friends that are friends for life while we were in medical school. They were both medical student wives and not. I absolutely LOVE the friends I made in medical school – they are like my family and I wouldn’t trade our time in medical school with them for the world.
6. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage
Your husband is going to be stressed out of his mind. He has to study so much and do test after test after test. He is going to get burned out. Sometimes he will seriously bomb a test. And sometimes he will feel like he just can’t do this medical school thing.
You are his biggest cheerleader. Remember to keep encouraging him – over and over and over again. He needs you, more than ever! Remind him of how smart and capable he is. Tell him how proud you are of him. Keep telling him that he will get this down – that a bad test score is just a set-back and he can come back up on top.
Never underestimate how important you are to your husband’s success as a medical student. He could not do this without you.
7. Set a Budget and Stick To It
It stinks that your spouse can’t work during medical school, right? He just can’t – being a medical student is a full-time job. And if you are the only one working, that means finances will be tight. You will want to set a budget and stick to it so you can live off of one income and also minimize the amount of debt you have for school loans.
If you haven’t set a budget yet, choose a time to sit down with your husband and talk about it. Write out all of your expenses, then see what you can cut out and where you can spend less. I know it’s not fun to be so strict with your finances, but it is definitely worth it. Plus, the frugal skills you learn in medical school will serve you well in residency.
8. Take It One Day At a Time
This medical journey seems like it will take FOREVER. I mean, 4 years of undergrad, 4 years of medical school, then 3-5 (or more) years of residency before your husband is a doctor! Ugh, it’s painful when you think how long it takes.
My solution? Don’t think about it! Just take it one day at a time. Don’t worry about board exams in 6 months, or clinical rotations in a year, or residency. Don’t worry about all of that stuff in the future. Just take it one day at a time. Focus on your next 24 hours and what you’re going to do with those 24 hours. When you take medical school and make it into bite-sized chunks it doesn’t seem so bad.
9. Pursue Your Own Dreams and Goals
Yes your husband is in medical school, working hard to become a doctor. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold. Yes, I’m sure you have already made sacrifices for your husband to be in medical school. I had to pass up a dream job offer because we had to move for medical school – it was a hard sacrifice to make. But just because you are giving up some things, doesn’t mean you have to give up everything.
Pick your own dreams and goals and go after them! Figure out what you are passionate about and do it. Create a life for yourself outside of your “let’s make my husband a doctor” life. During medical school I worked out in the mornings with my friend, had my own job as a nurse, went hiking, had my first son and read a lot of books. I ended up loving medical school because I created a life for myself where I was thriving, not just surviving.
10. Remember “It’s Good Now”
Remember that you don’t have to wait until medical school or residency is over for you to enjoy your life. Don’t think, “Oh, once boards are over things will be so much better” or “I’ll be happier once we are finally done with medical school.” No no no. Life can be good now! Yes medical school is hard for both you and your spouse. But you can have a fantastic, beautiful life during medical school.
Life is not good just when medical school is over – it’s good now.