A little while back this email hit the inbox:
…I am looking for advice from experienced Doctors. I am hoping you can answer a quick question for me. In your opinion, is it impossible to successfully get through Medical school, residency, etc. with children? I am hoping to become an RN, and then continue my education to become a Physician. I admit that I don’t know much about what it takes other than the basics, and that is why I am reaching out for advice from Doctors who have already been there. Any help you can offer would be much appreciated.
It is certainly NOT impossible. I had classmates with kids, and they made it through (anecdotal but real information). As I recall they were a touch older than the ‘straight-through’ students, and their kids were in the ‘can take care of themselves’ age bracket. Everyone you ask will give a different answer (I hope!), and I asked my wife what she thought. In only the second topic here she’s weighed in on, this is her input as to what the life is like:
Med Student Spouse…. 3’rd year medical student has a day off. It’s close to Christmas, mid-school year, and the 3’rd grade son has a holiday program at school. The entire family loads up in Dad’s car to attend the program: Dad is tired but game. He backs out of the garage, stops, and says, " I don’t know where [sons] school is". [Son] has been at the same school for about five months and Dad has no clue where the school is located.
He has been away from home so long that just to see him walk in the door is a bittersweet treat. I know he’s hungry, tired, and yet wants to inter-act with the family. What a struggle it has become, trying to balance it all.
As the spouse of a med student you must be able to function as a single parent. Pay the bills, shop for food, prepare the food, clean up the mess and most likely work a 9 to 5 job and WHEN the spouse is off work (and not sleeping) included them in the family functions. It is a very odd lifestyle, Spouse is working extremely hard, but not earning one dime to contribute to the budget. The reward will come much, much later (note to self, check insurance reimbursement rates). They are remotely connected but so immersed in school and medicine, that the study takes over their life.
I also remember on one occasion I actually called the hospital [ed: this was during my internship], asked for the chief resident on surgery, and told him I would pay the ransom, if I could just see my husband again. At that stretch, I think he had been at the hospital for 4 and 1/2 days.
Some habits die hard, I will always shop the clearance rack first, only call spouse at work when absolute needed, be thankful for days off work. See, I can rant also. Mrs. Grunt Doc
I was able to do it with a family only because I have been blessed with a very strong and independent spouse who can handle things in my absence (for instance). If I had to tell you the One Thing you’d need, it’s a supportive and committed family behind you.
As an aside, I think the RN first is going to be a deterrent to going to medical school. I’m not saying that it’s either a mistake or that people cannot go to med school after obtaining their RN, but I have seen people take that route and stop at RN (same for PA). Why? Being a nurse is a full-time occupation, it is its own profession with a real knowledge base, and frankly once you go from student to making RN money another 7+ years of being financially upside down isn’t terrifically attractive. Nurses are becoming more scarce, and thus more of a commodity, and that trend will only continue.