A few months ago, I had put together a post of the 6 most commonly asked questions about residency life- in celebration of completing 6 months of residency! It seemed to resonate with a lot of readers and sparked some great conversation. Before we started residency and when I launched this blog, I knew I wanted it to be more than just random writings and pictures. I wanted to be engaged in a community of people and be a place of encouragement and support (of course, with a big dose of humor and randomness!)
This idea has become a bit more clear has time has passed.
In an effort to keep this little torch going (although it seems like it has gone out over the past few months!), I'm introducing a series:

The whole idea behind this is to:

- encourage others 
- learn from others experiences  
- inform people  
- be honest

Why is it named "FORUM?" Well, there's going to be little learning if I'm the only one participating.  I'm not an expert on the medical life. We have four years of medical school and one year of residency (almost!) under the belt. In my opinion, the more input from others, the better. If I've learned anything from residency, it's that we can't (and don't want) to go through it alone. So please feel free to comment, share and give input. It's valued! (And I promise it will be much more interesting, who wants to hear my ramblings all day? ;)

I'm really excited about the conversations that we'll have in the upcoming months about certain topics! My hope is that it can promote healthy conversations and encourage others, not only as people in the medical profession, but anyone who can relate (I'm positive the majority of people can in one way or another)

Hopefully this gives anyone who can relate a small voice.

All that being said, let's roll out post #2:

I've been collecting responses for the past few weeks about the biggest misconceptions that people face as residents, spouses and families. Keeping with the original post, all answers are anonymous. I should also say that all answers below are from women's perspectives, whose husbands, fiances and boyfriends are medical residents.

Next up on the conveyer belt:

The TOP 5:

1) We are rich.
2) Wives don't work or have a career.
3) "I am exaggerating when I say he works a lot"
4) The amount of time invested
5) "Your life must stink!"

1) We are rich
(This was overwhelming the most common answer.)

- Residents make a decent, livable wage--I am incredibly grateful for that. Residents are, however, definitely not rich and most carry a significant financial debt as a result of undergraduate studies and Medical School. Most of us are pretty much middle class families with a monthly budget just like everyone else!

- Residents are not fellows, attendings or doctors in a private practice. When people think of "doctors" this is what they think of, which is typically followed by countless dollar signs. Residents are doctors in training and the only dollar signs following their name would be in RED from the debt they most likely accrued during medical school!

- I work with people who are actually rich, as in bring home millions a year and think it's a bad payday, so no, that's not us. Residents are mostly paid by medicare (aka the federal government) and make pretty much the same amount of money no matter where your training is in the country (with the exception of certain programs giving small bonuses, etc). If you want to get specific, relative to the majority of people in the world, yes we are all very rich. Relative to a doctors salary (as in has already completed residency + fellowship), it's minimal.

- I think for me, one of the biggest misconceptions people think is that since I married a doctor, therefore we have lots of money already. Little do they know we have more debt racked up than them because of his schooling and constant test taking that he has to do! You try explaining it to them, but most people don't truly understand all the money that goes into the schooling aspect and how long you actually have to be working to see that fruition.

2) Wives don't work or have a career
....and pandoras box just opened...

- I had someone ask me a few months ago what my husband does. When I said he was a Urology resident, he actually said to me "oh! so you probably just stay home eating bon bons then?" You've got to learn to take comments like these in stride and find polite ways to respond. I recognize that every woman is different, and some women find great pleasure in being a homemaker and some families can financially afford this scenario. I do find it frustrating that some people assume because my husband is a physician that I must not be educated or desire my own career and that I couldn't possibly be the "bread winner" in the home.

- Even though I am educated, sometimes I feel like it is not respected due to my husband being more educated. "Why worry about your career?", "You don't have to work," 'Oh, you're taken care of," are the constant mentalities that I encounter. My boss has even made these comments to me. Sometimes I find it difficult to stand on my own two feet and say I have a great job, because it seems minimal and almost silly to people, since they are comparing me to what they perceive my husbands to be.

- "you are a surgeon's wife! You're set!" "why are you worrying about your career your husband is a DOCTOR!"

- This is a continual struggle for people to understand or recognize. Whether I want a career inside or outside of the home isn't necessarily the point. They should both be respected and both are typically not. It's the "you don't need a career," or the "of course she doesn't work, she's a doctors wife," comments.

{SPOILER ALERT! *This topic alone sparked a HUGE conversation. Women + careers is one of my favorite topics, especially in light of the husband having a very demanding one. This topic alone is next up in the series and will surely prompt multiple posts :) If you have any insight, questions or particular stories, please email me or comment. I would love your read your opinions & I know others would too}

3) The amount of work

- None of the surgery wives are exaggerating when they say their husbands work 80 hours per week. I admit, when I heard significant others of residents say this before my husband was a resident, I thought they were exaggerating. How wrong I was!

- People assume that I'm lying when I say he works 80+ hours a week. I wish I could say that wasn't true!

- Unfortunately, I find myself getting annoyed at people who complain that they worked more than 40 hrs in a week. I know it's wrong, because they probably did work hard and that was a lot for them, but my sympathy levels have severely dropped for the complaints. I never realized how MUCH 80+ hours would actually be. It truly changes your life and your spouses. What I would give for him to work 50 hrs!

4) Overall time investment

- Sometimes I think that people just think that my husband rolled out of bed one day and boom!, he became a doctor. Although people know you have to go to medical school, they aren't aware of the years and years of training after that. They simply assume that if you graduate medical school, so you must be rich and play a lot of golf.

- I don't think people realize (and I sure didn't before) how long of a road it is for my husband to complete his training. With 4 years of medical school and almost a year of residency under his belt, he will have 6 more years of residency plus 2-3 more years of fellowship before he will settle in his career as a surgeon. Combining undergrad, medical school, residency and fellowship - that's 17-18 years of education and training he will have completed before he starts his "real" job.

- There is a huge opportunity cost in the medical field that people rarely factor in. Not only financial, but time. Although the two can be closely connected, the time investment is astronomical too! Not only is your spouse working unhealthy hours, it is for LONG periods of time- years and years and years. The "real job" doesn't begin until your early or mid 30's (assuming they went to medical school right out of undergrad), which brings to question major life choices like when to have children, move, buy a house, etc.

5) "Your life must stink!"

- There's no doubt that keeping and growing a healthy marriage is challenging. The long hours, limited energy, and life responsibilities - you're trying to juggle it all. It takes a tremendous amount of effort that can sometimes seem futile and it can get exhausting- fast. I think our society is so used to people just walking away or giving up when push comes to shove, people sometimes assume that's what should happen. I tend to get more fed up with the "oh yeah, my best friends cousins cousins was married to a doctor..." The best thing I could tell someone would be to encourage couples rather than share the unfortunate stories, we all know there are many.

- This is one of two reactions that people have when they ask what your husband does, the other is a wide eyed smile reflecting the fact that they think they just met a millionaire. The other, a look of pity and "oh, hows that going for you," that says they have some knowledge of the time & effort it requires. 9 times out of 10, it is followed by the "how often do you see eachother," question. I can't blame people for asking, but I can for assuming that life must be horrible. Each couple is different and finds the ebb and flow eventually - don't assume that our life is miserable.

- I wish I could tell you how many stories I've heard about affairs and failed marriages, but it would take a novel! Yes, that happens and it is very sad and unfortunate. Trust me, I understand the stress that comes with being married to a doctor. However, that doesn't mean my husband is cheating. Even to joke about it disrespects me, my husband and our marriage. I can't say I'm fond of those conversations, and typically walk away more annoyed!

What do you think? 
What's the biggest misconception that you encounter?
Did you use to make these same assumptions? I know I did.


  1. Yay for this new series!!

    With Caleb starting residency in less than two months (my... how it is creeping up on us), I think the money question/topic is the one that comes up the most with us. Most of our friends have understood that the past 4 years have been tight financially with only my paycheck. However, most of them don't understand that how things work during residency. Salaries are small considering the amount of schooling they have and the fact that we have to start paying back all of the student loans.

    "Doesn't Caleb's program pay for the move?" was a question I got the other day! haha!! Wouldn't that be nice if the residency programs paid for moves??!! We interviewed with one program that had a small stipend, but other than that... all of ours you were on your own. As moving costs are starting to come our way, I am realizing more and more how expensive moving is and how nice it would be to be in the "real" world where most jobs cover the costs of moves.

    $$$... seems it's all I think about lately.

    1. Elizabeth, I remember how expensive moving was! Just the cost of boxes is ridiculous- definitely collect as many as possible from the grocery stores!
      It's hard not to think about the bottom line constantly, especially when you are going into so many unknowns. You're not alone in that :)

  2. You covered most of the misconceptions so well, what more is there to say? The one that I would have to add because we are almost "there" is that the end isn't really what you thought it would be. Like everything else, the end is really just the beginning of something new. Yes you'll get a larger salary but what you failed to consider when you were a med student/new resident is that all that money wouldn't be yours. Your taxes will increase beyond your wildest dreams. Your expenses to practice medicine will increase. Your insurance requirements to protect your family and livelihood will astound you. Your retirement investment strategies will consume much more of your income than you thought because you are getting a late start and if you want to retire at a age where you are still young/old enough to enjoy requires a lot of saving. So yes, you will make more - but it isn't yours to spend (somebody has already spent it for you).

    I do the same thing when I hear people talk about how hard they worked on day, or one week, or one month. It's hard not to roll my eyes. People cannot even comprehend what it means to work 80 hours a week - that's two full time jobs, but he only gets paid for you! How many people would put up with that arrangement?

    1. That's supposed to say - he only gets paid for one, not he only gets paid for you. Although, my husband might argue that he only gets paid for me.

    2. YUCK!! So true, mo' money mo' problems ;)
      This year we got a horrible taste of it from just taxes.

      I had our car insurance tell me the other day that we should increase our insurance on everything we own so that a patients can't come sue us for it. I thanked him for thinking of us, but reassured him that the hospital would probably cover it at this point.(I hope that's true haha)

  3. This is a great series idea! Two thoughts... on #2: I think I sometimes perpetuate this attitude (not about not working, but about under-emphasis on wife's career) because since we've been married, while my work matters to me, our lives have been MUCH more influenced by my husband's medical career, based on where he got into medical school, what specialty he wanted to pursue, where he matched for residency, and now it's coming up again as we start to consider types of jobs he will pursue for after residency. Sometimes I think it's easy to underplay our own career goals or importance when this is the situation - so we've got to combat the outside stereotype plus our own tendencies. Working on that!

    And on #5: it drives me nuts when people say that sort of thing to me. Don't get me wrong, there are times I totally think residency stinks and when I want to be able to vent about it, but silly as it might be, it bothers me when other people say that about my life (or "how do you do it?!") because (1) it's my life, and I live it, and I love a zillion things about it, and (2) most of the time they really have NO idea, so I don't want this pity unless I'm venting. Petty? Maybe.

    Thanks for these interesting points/conversations!

    1. Anne- you definitely nailed it on the head. Medical life has absolutely dictated a lot of choices in my career, and I don't ever see that changing. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a reality that has to be dealt with.

  4. Oh boy! I agree with all of your points, but especially the time commitment one. I hate it when people complain about working overtime, aka 45 hours a week!

  5. My favorite so far: "Your boyfriend is going to be a doctor, why are you going to grad school?" I guess I should restrict myself to more realistic pursuits like throwing tea parties or scrapbooking or spending money.

  6. Love your blog! I've only been reading for a couple of months, but as the wife of a 2nd year fellow I can totally relate to your life as a med wife. My hubby and I are from Michigan and hope to be back in the Grand Rapids area once he's an attending... Anyway, just wanted to say "hi" and let you know that I appreciate your honesty and humor, and of course that you're a Michigander :o)
    I'll be reading!
    Amber @ amberWIRE.wordpress.com

    1. Hi Amber! So glad you commented, I'm excited follow your blog. My husband is also from the Grand Rapids area, we love it there too :)

  7. So glad you're doing this series! I would love to help out in any way possible, even though we're nearing the end of the residency journey with only a couple months left! The ones that get me the most is that people assume we are rich and don't understand the hours and years of training he has put in to become a surgeon. I wish I could respond politely, but I am usually to upset at/bothered by their ignorance to do that ;)

    1. Chrissie! I would love to get some of your input, will you send me an email and we'll chat about it :)!

  8. Love this series! I can relate about wives don't work or have a career - no matter what I do people consider me The Ray Doc's Wife first and foremost. So, I took that one step further and created a blog around that title - of course, I am a writer above all - and that's just one of my outlets. It's a continual struggle for me to not defend myself or even take these ideas on board. A well-made point and I like the fact that you brought it up and address. It feels less lonely.


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