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Lives of Doctor Wives: February 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Survivor Stories: How Residency Interviews Became the Best Memory During the Training Years

It’s easy for a “survivor” to recall the tough times during medical school and residency.   The tough times are truly numerous.  But since I like to keep the survivor stories light, I recently asked my husband to recall the best memory of his training years.  Having been with him since graduate school (and before any of this medical journey) I had a feeling I knew the answer he would give.  “The trip with my dad.”  He said.  The same answer I expected he would give. Although I would have phrased it “Your residency interviews.”  It was the same trip, just a different perspective of the memory.
When we think about residency interviews as a medical student, our pulse quickens and palms get sweaty.  How many places do we have to apply to?  Did we choose the right away rotations?  Did we do enough away rotations?  How many interviews will be offered?  How many can I afford to attend?  What will my ranking list look like?
There are dozens of questions, and even more factors to complicate the matter.  We had the usual complicating factor – specific desired location.  At the time, we were in the Midwest for medical school, where my husband grew up.  But as a Colorado girl, I was used to warmer weather and much more sun.  I couldn’t handle another 3 years in the Midwest and desperately wanted to get closer to home.  
Here moves in the second complicating factor.  There are few programs in the Western states around Colorado (at least for ER – my husband’s specialty).  
And our last complicating factor is that my husband doesn’t fly.  As we neared the end of third year, we wondered how we would make this work.
Ultimately, my husband chose to do his fourth year elective months in Dec and Jan.  The electives he chose allowed schedule flexibility, so he was able to manage a 4 week break that placed Christmas through New Years near the end.  His Midwest interviews he scheduled around 3-day breaks in November and early December, and the Western states he planned during the 4-week trip.  His dad, a recently retired ER physician, joined my husband for the journey along with our 1-yr-old golden doodle. 
For the journey, I made my husband a binder with a map of the US on the front and individual pages for each of the locations.  I had areas for him to write down notes related to the program director/staff, hospital facilities, other residents, best areas to live, etc.  Each location had a two-page spread for him to capture thoughts.  I also included printed mapquests, hotel recommendations, things to see and do at their destinations and along the way.  I stayed back as I was working full-time and unable to take that much time off. Although a road trip this extensive is more suitable for the boys anyway.
On their way to interview destinations, they visited Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, the White Sands, the border to Mexico, and Saguro National Park – to name a few of the highlights.  We rendezvoused in Colorado at Christmas with both of our families.  
Overall, by driving to all of his interviews, my husband developed a great feel for each of the areas we considered.  He was able to see the surroundings and outdoor activities (just as important to him as the program).  And, it made for interesting conversation during his interviews.  People would ask about the adventures, what sights had he seen, how our puppy was holding up through the travel (very well, by the way).  I would like to think it helped him be more relaxed, allowed his personality to show through, and helped him stand out in the memory of the rank list panel when the time came.  His father’s wisdom, as a former academic ER physician, was hugely valuable in determining questions to ask and how to process all he had learned through the interviewee experience.  It was a powerful trip between a father and a son, and one they speak of often to this day.  He matched at his number one, and we enjoyed spending the next three years continuing to explore our surroundings – as much as a residency schedule allows.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Residency Roundup: The Good

Its easy to dwell on the negatives of residency. Many, many posts focus on the (understandably)hard and long parts of training. I thought it would be refreshing to share some positives I have found through the last 3.5 years.

My Five Favorite things about Residency.
1. No administrative stuff!- We are not responsible for any staffing, billing, RVUs, contract responsibilities, office maintenance, advertisement of practice...

2. Time off does not mean less pay- We just returned from a 5 day family trip and didn't have to think about making up the time or finding coverage over the practice.

3. Attitude toward our finances- I appreciate that during residency other people I meet don't have falsely high expectations of my lifestyle.  A huge home, a German made car, perfect skin care, kids in coordinated outfits, magazine worthy home decor and many other ideas I have overheard that a 'doctors family' is assumed to have.  While each of those items are a great/fun thing to have, I relish the time in residency where none of those expectations exist.  

4. Benefits- Our program has amazing Medical, Dental, and Vision coverage.  We paid nothing for our third child's birth!

5. Co-residents = instant friends- We feel extremely lucky to have matched with another family very similar to ours.  They know exactly what we are going through because they are the only ones in the same program!  Rarely in life are you 'matched' with someone so closely. 

We all have difficult times!  We survive.  We move on.  But, as we move on, we all need to remember that life currently has great stuff happening:) 


p.s. What are your favorite things about residency??

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Before and After

I distinctly remember the first time my husband wasn't there for me.

I was sick. Sick to the point that I almost passed out in a shopping mall and my Dad had to haul my listless, sweaty self out to the car and drive me to an Urgent Care Clinic. My family sat there with me for hours. As we walked out to the parking lot after I was treated and released, my husband pulled up in his patrol car to check on me. Concern was etched into the lines on his face as he asked how I was feeling. I don't remember exactly how I responded (I have a feeling it was neither kind nor graceful), but I do remember exactly how I felt. I was hurt, frustrated by the demands of his job, and embarrassed that a married woman still needed her family to step in and save the day.

This story occurred BM- Before Medicine. It seems somehow appropriate to categorize our lives into BM- Before Medicine and AM- After Medicine.

Our journey started several years ago when we decided that B would leave his full-time job as a police officer in the pursuit of becoming a doctor. The next few years were spent doing the one thousand things required to turn the dream of medical school into a reality. And we did! My husband is a first year medical student. Overall, it is going really well. Between adjusting to life in a new city, a demanding school schedule, and a new job for me, the transition has felt a little drawn out. But with the new year and the second semester in full swing, I think we are finally finding our rhythm.

However, one thing that seems to have taken the longest for me is shifting my mindset. It's like all of my mental energy over the last couple of years was focused on getting him here. To this point. The first year of medical school. I just couldn't afford to look past it until that happened. But now that we are here, how am I supposed to feel? I feel grateful, of course. Excited, nervous, hopeful. But I also feel...abnormal.

Every time I stop and look ahead at the really. long. road. in front of us, all of a sudden everything about the medical life feels abnormal. The hours will always be long, the demands are high, and there is no end to it. This is forever. We have committed to a lifetime of medicine. I will admit, it felt a little heavy at first. Add in the fact that we are also non-traditional (a.k.a. "older" *ahem*), and that instantly compounds the abnormal-ness. But I figure even the 23-year-olds fresh out of undergrad are probably watching their non-medical friends get real jobs, make real money, and buy real things...all while putting their own plans on hold due to the decade of training in front of them. I am willing to bet that even those spry 23-year-olds don't feel very normal most of the time either.

I learned so many important things Before Medicine. Things that are serving me well at this very moment. Heck, I even learned about abnormal. One might even think I should have mastered abnormal by now. After all, I am the same girl who went to bed alone most nights just praying that her husband would find his way safely there before sunrise. Not necessarily a normal way to live. I definitely learned that important jobs require sacrifice. That in the future, if B can't show up for work, he puts those who serve alongside him and the community of people who rely on him at risk. And that sometimes I will need to sacrifice on my end too so that he can be there for people who need him more than I do. Looking back on that day at the Urgent Care Clinic, I feel glad to have learned that lesson early in my marriage and I am certainly glad to have learned it Before Medicine. And when I picture that sweet, concerned look on his face that day, I regret the harsh words I spoke to a noble man who was torn between duty and family. It wasn't the first time and it certainly won't be the last...even in a totally different career.

So for now, I am going to do my very best to stop looking out so far ahead and bring my mindset in close, to where we are in this very moment- the first year of medical school. And what I realize is...we got this. We are surviving medical school. We even try to go out on dates pretty often. I also find comfort in knowing that at some point, the hours and hours and hours (I think you get the point) and hours and hours of studying will translate into true survival. Real life application. Actual life and death decisions made on behalf of real people. That's a far cry from normal. That's extraordinary.

Turns out, normal isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

come visit my personal blog, thehappyredhead.com, for more med school musings and general happiness.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Pre-Med Intro: Erin

Good Morning, Lovlies!
My name is Erin, I’m new to the LoDW community. 
I’m really excited to have been added on as a Pre-Med Wife contributor! 

My husband, Jake, and I are from the central Columbus, Ohio area. (O-H!!)
 We met in high school, through marching band my senior year, and have been together ever since. 

We have a little boy, Jaxon, who is 10 months old this month. 
He is the love of our lives and such a happy baby. Right now he is working on big boy front teeth and cruising the furniture. 

Jake has always known that he wanted to be in medicine… Well there was a small stint where he wanted to be a grocery store clerk because his cute little 6 year old self thought that they got to take home all the money.

Anyway, medicine and the idea of being a doctor has always been Jake’s passion. Once college started, he felt called to serve our country and join the Army National Guard as a Radiology Technologist. Jake’s decision to serve in the National Guard took his 4 year undergrad to a 6 year process. This included a 6 month stint in San Antonio and another 6 months in Washington DC for Advanced Training as a Rad Tech and clinicals, which was amazing for his professional development, and a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. 

It’s been quite a journey to get us to this point in Jake’s schooling. Challenges have always been present, whether it was just working full time while doing school full time, or Jake’s training and deployment.


We began the MCAT process while I was pregnant and Jake was taking his final semester of classes. Jake decided, after trolling the boards, that he was going to take his first MCAT without taking a course. Since a majority of his schooling has been online, Jake wanted to see what his ‘Base line’ would be.  It was an interesting time, for sure.

The first MCAT didn’t go as Jake expected. Even though he felt prepared, and being/just finishing all his science undergrad course helped.
His total score was lower than he wanted. It was a decent score, weighing a little heavier in one category… But not good enough for his standards. The distraction of our newborn, me being home on maternity leave, and just having moved in with his mom and step-dad didn’t help, I’m sure.

So the process started again. We didn’t have enough time to enroll him in a course and have it completed before the new year, and new test. So, independent study it was, again. This time he knew what to expect and his studying was set up differently. 
His score only went up by one point, overall. Each of the categories evened out… But that means he lost points in one category, while gaining in the others.
He was so disappointed in that fact and it was a shadow that we dealt with for a few days, but he had applications to complete, so thankfully he didn’t have long to dwell on it.


The first round of school applications were due 2 weeks after the 2nd MCAT. My husband, the king of procrastination, who is amazing under pressure, has only preliminarily started his applications… It was a frantic 2 weeks, with a flurry of phone calls, emails and constant stress. We sent out the first applications the week before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately due to the lateness of his MCAT and the time crunch, we didn’t really know what we were doing and transcripts were returned to us.
We decided to rescind our applications and go forward only with our February applications.
I guess the doors closing on the empty applications is just pointing us in a more solid direction with Jacob's eventual school choice.

His applications for the February due date are now in. 
Praise the Lord!

I do believe that as his wife and the mother of our child that is my responsibility to make his experience with med school as easy and stress-free on the home front as possible. So, I try to make myself available for our family. 
Currently, until we get into med school, I work part time and send our little boy to my sister for babysitting during my working hours. This frees up time for my husband who is working second shift at the hospital. Our evenings together are few and far between. 

This set up, I believe, will prepare us for the years of irregularity that Med school and everything that comes with it. 

The life of a doctor and his family is very special one and, in the words of Dave Ramsey, you have to live like no one else, to live like no one else.

(If you are interested in learning more about me, I have a personal blog, Enamored & Elegant. Check it out!!!)

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