Angelo and I met while he was on holiday in South Africa. I had just finished my studies and was working for a local newspaper as a Graphic Designer. I wouldn’t say that it was love at first sight but well…. it was something like that. Two and a half years later we were married, and two weeks after that we had packed our bags and moved to make Pavia our new home.
It hasn’t always been as easy as it is now, but it has been one heck of an adventure! I’ve learnt a few tricks of the trade along the way that I’m hoping might make a small difference, even if it only brings a smile to your face.
So welcome to the complete guide to being married to a medical student.
Tip 1: It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is you can always drink coffee
Whether you’re drinking it to stay awake while your husband pulls an “all-nighter” or if you just drink it as a food source now, coffee is always the answer, even without a question.
Someone I know said told me the other day that they literally do not have time to go to bed, let alone sleep. That is the life that I have gotten myself into, so yes, coffee is definitely a food group for most medical students, and be definition… me too. And we live in Italy, coffee is not a part of life here, it is life.
Tip 2: Be prepared to not understand A LOT
I’ve spent countless hours around a table of our friends, while they have been lost in “doctor talk”, needless to say I usually use these spare hours of my time to scroll through Facebook or Instagram, maybe read up on some news. Honestly you can use this time to do absolutely anything, if you want to leave the room, feel free no one will even notice you are gone.
Also, don’t try and change the subject, or point out that you don’t understand, if you’re lucky you will get a small smile, maybe a laugh and a nod, and then the conversation will resume. Sometimes I think that the majority of medical students have actually forgotten what “normal English” is, welcome to copious amounts of medical jargon.
Tip 3: Know that during exam time, you’ve basically got a child
Carrying the load of the household is one of the many novelties you will have to face when you marry a medical student, especially during exam time. The requests during exam time can range from midnight brioches to fetching water from the kitchen.
Be prepared for long term hibernation, not only from your partner but also everyone else that you know. Their whole metabolisms slow down, they become sloth like, nothing else matters. Their food intake consists of coffee, chocolate, pizza and coffee.
You’re the adult now. Handle everything. Your partner has officially tapped out of life until the exam is over.
Tip 4: You’re in it for the long haul
This life that I have chosen was never meant to be an easy one. I spend long hours making money to support Angelo while he follows his dreams. The one thing about a medical degree is that it is anything but short. It will feel like you’ve been supporting your other half for quite literally half of your life, and well… you’re not far off.
There are going to be times where it feels like forever, and it just doesn’t seem like it gets better but there is always a bright side. On the other side of the great darkness known to many medical students as “exams” will be great things like “summer holidays” and “Christmas” amongst many other holidays.
Tip 5: You also earn an MD (Married to a Doctor)
Although you don’t exactly graduate like your partner, there is definitely a sense of achievement when it comes to them graduating. As an added extra you learn a couple of things a long the way, I wouldn’t say I am a fully fledged doctor, but I’m definitely somewhere around nurse. For example, I know how to lower a fever using Paracetamol and Ibuprofen (antipyretics or something right?). Just don’t ask me to scrub in for surgery.
If I had to walk into an exam period right now, I would know who to speak to and what to say, hey, I might even pass. (Okay, highly unlikely but there is always a chance).
Tip 6: Be prepared to face many “Ooooh, you’re married to a doctor?!” questions
I can not actually emphasize this point enough. You no longer exist, you’re just the wife behind the medicine. Yes, yes I will be married to a doctor one day. Yes, he will be saving peoples live. People will generally think you live the “high life” fast cars, rich people, going to balls every Friday night.
When in actual fact being married to a doctor simply means that you get less sleep than the average person, and your husband knows whats wrong with you before you even do. It really isn’t as glamorous as Grey’s Anatomy.
Tip 7: Your husband becomes the family GP
I’m not going to lie, writing this heading made me laugh. Being married to a doctor means that now all of a sudden your family, and friends, think its perfectly acceptable to ask about ANYTHING. Honestly, I’ve had people lift up their tops to show Angelo a spot, asking for a full diagnosis. Like, calm down Elizabeth, its probably just a pimple, you don’t need my husband to look at your boobs.
Would I ask an accountant to “quickly” take a look at my income forms, probably not. If you’re a doctor it’s okay though, so be ready for many dinners to turn into doctors appointments.
That being said there are also going to be times in the beginning of the course where you will be used as a living, breathing dummy. You’ll definitely get used to the stethoscope and some abdominal proding that’s for sure.
What do you gain out of all this stress?
What makes it all worth it in the end?
You get the chance to see the person that you love accomplish something that not many people get to do. You’re helping him (or her) save lives. This is something so incredibly wonderful that it’s worth the stress, late nights and many “mental breakdowns” to see it to the finish line.
I know that this life that I have chosen is not always going to be easy, and the times when it seems overwhelming may sometimes feel like they outweigh the good, but this is something I have chosen. I have chosen to love this person, support this person and constantly push him to be the best that he can be, if that means that I have to keep my end of the bargain in the work load, so be it.
Alex is a graduate of the Harvey Medical Program at University of Pavia and is the founder of MEDschool.it. He is a Resident in Ophthalmology and a Researcher in Ophthalmic Gene Therapy in Germany.
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