A couple weeks before our wedding I was reading a fellow dr.’s wife’s blog and she mentioned joining a Facebook group called “Lives of Doctor Wives.” It is a private group of physician spouses all over the country who are all at different stages of the schooling, training and practicing process. I was thrilled to find the group as it provides support and guidance from people who actually understand the life you are living – because many don’t.
I know that many people buy into the stereotype: if you marry a doctor your life is MADE and that you will never have to work another day in your life. Well the reality is, that is so far from the truth. What most don’t know is that their physician and his/her family has sacrificed a great deal for them to be taking care of your well-being.
On average your family practice doctor has completed 4 years of undergraduate studies, 4 years of medical school, 3 years of residency and potentially a year or two of fellowship. Your general surgeon has completed the same steps, but completed 5-7 years of residency/fellowship. And if you don’t already know, on average, the neurosurgeons complete 4 years undergrad, 4 years of medical school, 7 years of residency and possibly then go on to complete an additional year of fellowship. To do the math, that will put DrH at 34 years old when he is a full practicing neurosurgeon. Yowza!
The other thing to note, during these training years (residency), the doctor is rarely around (surgery residents work 80+ hours/week) and they are only making about 50k a year (little more/little less depending on year of training and location). This means that starting a family is often delayed, most if not all household to-dos fall on the non medical spouse, holidays, birthdays weddings and anniversaries are missed, very little money is saved, vacations are rarely taken and the non medical spouse gets used to doing most everything by themselves. Additionally, when they are finally fully practicing, the hours are still demanding and they still are around less than most working spouses, they just start to make more money. But, before you say that doctors are over paid, think about how much training they have done and how little they have made thus far. Also, consider that they have not been able to save money for retirement in their time training like those in other professions are able to do. AND there are loans… medical school loans have to be paid off ( ~ 300k+). Then throw a family in there and then malpractice insurance…. the money doesn’t go a far as one would think.
Also consider the emotional toll being a physician has on a person. DrH has come home every night to tell me that more of his patients have passed/ or will be passing soon. What can you say to that? That takes it toll and it affects more than just the family of the patient – though it different, it affects the doctor as well as the doctor’s family. It is impossible to not take those experiences home with you.
By no means am I complaining about any of this, I chose this life and I am so happy with my husband, but I hope to educate those of you who are unaware of what it is like to really be sharing a life with a doctor. It also is to explain why support groups are created and necessary for the spouses/families.
Which leads me to another resource I have found: Physician Family, a new “go-to” resource for medical families, providing support, solutions, and strategies at every stage of life and practice for those who share life with a physician. Through “Live of Doctors Wives” I became aware of this new online magazine and reached out to the editor. I was honored to have been able to contribute to the blog sharing how how DrH and I were feeling at the beginning of residency and I hope to continue to contribute over the years. I highly recommend the magazine to anyone who shares their life with a physician or anyone who wants to learn about it. And of course I am always here for questions, comments, thoughts.
Photo by Kory Chase, Twist Photography