* * Anonymous Doc

Sunday, January 30, 2011

We had our annual winter party last night. I was lucky enough to have the night off so I could go. I should rephrase that. I was unlucky enough to have the night off so I could go. And spend my day off with work people, talking about work, instead of anywhere else, not talking about work.

It's not that I don't like a lot of the people I work with. It's just that all we talk about is work. It's my fault as much as anyone else's. I talk about work. What else is there to talk about? Except I wish that there was something else to talk about.

"Did you hear that Bill is dating Jessica?"

"I thought Jessica was married."

"She was, but she's not anymore."

"What happened?"

"She was spending too much time at the hospital. Her husband left her."

Even the people who've already found a mate-- the people who I take for granted are lucky because they're done, they don't have to worry about that stuff anymore-- they still have to worry about it. Maybe it's as hard to be a married resident as a single resident. Especially if your other half doesn't understand what the lifestyle is.

I'm amazed at these kinds of things, when people bring their spouses and the spouse has absolutely no idea what their doctor wife or doctor husband does all day.

"Oh, she never tells me anything about what happens at work."

"Oh, are you in the same division as my husband? What's it called?"
"Internal medicine?"
"Yeah, that's what it's called, right?"
"Yeah, I'm in that too."
"Oh, is everyone in that, or it's just a few people?"
"It's a good number of people."
"And everyone else is surgery?"
"Oh. What is everyone else?"
"There's psych, and derm, pediatrics, OB, a whole bunch of things."
"Oh. My husband never tells me anything."

"Oh, I don't even know what my wife does all day and night. I don't know if she sees patients, or it's classes, or what this whole residency thing is all about."

"Oh, I just wish my wife would work less. I don't understand why the chief doctors always pick her to work the nights and weekends."

Are they just never talking about work, is the spouse not listening, I don't understand. I know more about what my third cousin does at work than most of the non-doctor spouses I meet know about their husbands or wives. No wonder people get divorced. They must never be talking if they know this little. I thought part of the point of being married is having someone to share with, and to talk to. I guess not. I don't know what these people talk about at home. I don't know what kind of lives they live. It makes me less sad about my own situation. Maybe I've idealized what marriage is, what having a partner is about. Who knows.

And today, half the doctors on the floors have a hangover from last night, which makes for great patient care. Free open bar until midnight, and half of us working the next day? Smart.


  1. I have heard similar complaints from doctor friends. From what I can understand (and I have zero first-hand knowledge of this, only 2nd and 3rd party complaints from doctor friends), the stressors take very different tacks, but exist for both the marrieds and non-marrieds. On the side of the singles, you have the situation where you don't have a significant other and you don't have the time to find a significant other. So, the isolating experience of residency is compounded by the isolating lack of social life. It's not real easy to be the kind of social being necessary to attract a mate when you are operating on very little sleep. Most of my friends were married before residency (two went through a peds residency at the same time, and from what I've heard, peds residency is supposed to be a cake-walk compared to some of the other residencies). Both marriages went through major, major problems during the residencies. The first group was sort of educationally mis-matched. He was a bartender and she was the training doctor. I don't think they had much in common to begin with, honestly. He definitely didn't want to hear about her work stuff, and she didn't want to talk about it either. They ended up getting divorced as soon as residency was over and fellowship began. The second couple almost divorced. She took a month off of her residency in a last-ditch effort to save the marriage. The husband said she complained constantly. He was also in a science-heavy medical related field, so he at least had an understanding of her background. He said the spill-over from her work life was so negative that the marriage suffered very badly. She ended up taking a hospitalist job and bailing out of the academic track she had been working for (she was a MD/PhD) and they are still together. No fellowship for her though. So, different people in different marriages will have different experiences. My friend who was the husband in the second couple I mentioned said that he went to a ton of social gatherings with her residency class, and he was just astounded by how socially inept they all were. He said nobody ever had anything substantive or interesting to talk about. It was always just a rehash of work. He also mentioned his experience was that residents were the most humorless bunch of people he had ever had occasion to meet. There was no laughing, no joking. So it seems like the scenario you describe is fairly common, sadly. Maybe it's better to be single during residency and not have to deal with the risk of divorce. Has there been a lot of divorce in the group of residents you see often? Are most of the attendings you work with divorced?

  2. Duh, it's hard to be a married resident.

    I think part of the reason the spouse have very little idea is because they don't have a lot of time together to talk about anything, and when they do they last thing the resident wants to talk about is work, you yourself mentioned not wanting to talk about work.

  3. Truly these types of posts make me want to start some kind of adopt-a-resident program. I would totally make cookies (or a nice salad) for residents.

    Medical training is an awful grind.


  4. Doctor/non-doctor couples have higher rates of divorce than doctor/doctor couples. fml.

  5. Well.... I don't ask my husband about his job. This is usually because it devolves into a rant about someone he works with or how stupid some new policy is or some such. I guess at least I know what he does and that there are different departments. On the other hand, he doesn't want to hear about how long it takes to run my models, and how my mentor just doesn't get it.

    It's probably good that we end up talking about other things, is all I'm saying.

    Though, I'm not a resident yet. I've warned him that he will essentially be single during that period of time, and I will need him to take care of all things related to house, family, and dog. He agrees. I'm not sure that the reality will hit him until after I've been doing it a few months. We'll see how it goes.

  6. My husband (a doctor) and I (definitely not a doctor, I pass out at the sight of blood) are in our first year of marriage and his first year of residency. Because my mother is a CRNA, I know the strain of medical students. (And I know someone might make a comment about nurses not having the same training as doctors, and they're right- but have you SEEN what CRNA's have to go through in their training? It's brutal.)

    I was also very fortunate to work as a secretary in a medical school for a while and see what the students go through first hand. I came into the marriage knowing what kind of hours he would be working and that he would be coming home sleep-deprived and frustrated. He talks to me about events at work, as long as they don't contain too much gore, and I'm glad to have him share. He needs to vent sometimes, just like everyone else, and probably more so. We also talk about things other than work, and try to make time for a "date" at least once a week, even if it's just walking around Target holding hands. It's not easy, and it's not fun, but flexibility and the mantra "it's not personal" when he gets a little snippy helps a lot. Lord knows I get snippy too, and he seems to somehow forgive me. :)

    I think it's important to know what to expect when marrying/dating a med student or doctor; maybe they should write a book called "What to Expect when You're Expecting a to get an M.D." [or in our case D.O.].