A Letter To My Fellow Physician Spouse

To My Fellow Physician Spouses,

I wanted to let you know that I am thinking about you. The days and weeks can feel relentless at times and it can be hard to put that into words. Sometimes, even on the hardest days, I don't actually need any help. I just need a little understanding and some companionship.

Navigating life as the spouse of a doctor comes with a unique set of challenges and rewards that only those in our shoes can truly understand. The demanding schedules, the emergency calls at odd hours, and the emotional toll it can take are aspects we are all too familiar with. Yet, there is an immense pride and respect that comes from supporting a partner who dedicates their life to saving others.

Our partners' commitment to their profession isn't like other jobs. This means long hours, sudden changes in plans, and missed family events. Do you ever try to ask your partner what he/she wants for dinner only to realize they aren't listening and instead replaying a challenging patient conversation from the day? If you didn't grow up with family members who are doctors, you might have been oblivious to the depth of sacrifice it takes to become a doctor.

As challenging as this can be, I've found that embracing flexibility in our expectations and schedules helps in managing unpredictability. We say yes to plans even if my doctor spouse is coming to the playdate late and in scrubs. We try to plan fun outings during evening meetings so my toddler isn't sitting home waiting for dad. We change our mealtimes to support when my husband might be coming from or going to work.

One of the most invaluable resources we can cultivate is a supportive community. Connecting with others who share similar experiences can be a lifeline. Whether it's through social gatherings, online forums, or just a coffee date to vent and share advice, these relationships empower us and remind us that we are not alone in our journeys. Make a plan to order take out with another physician family or meet up at the park while your partners round on the weekend.

It’s crucial to remember the importance of self-care and maintaining our own identities outside of our partners' careers. This might mean pursuing our own careers, hobbies, or interests that fulfill us personally. I recently joined a cookbook club in hopes of meeting other people in the community. Sometimes it means I am the one skipping bedtime but the benefit of friendship and taking care of myself is greater than this one night. Keeping a part of our lives that is entirely ours helps maintain our mental health and overall well-being.

The medical field can bring home profound emotional baggage. Our partners might experience loss, high-stress situations, or carry the weight of critical decisions. Being a source of stability and comfort, without judgment, allows them to share these burdens. However, not at the expense of our own emotional health. I used to tell my husband he had 5-10 minutes to tell me about his day and then I needed us to move on with a different conversation. Medicine and work are all consuming to our partners and sometimes, they might not realize it. Set the boundaries that work for your family.

While there are undeniable challenges, there are also moments of profound joy and pride in our partners' achievements and the lives they touch. Celebrating these victories, big and small, helps to remind us of the positive impact of our sacrifices and solidifies the sense of purpose in our shared journey.

So... let's just say it outloud- being a doctor's spouse is a profound, albeit sometimes challenging, adventure. It requires patience, resilience, and a great deal of love and understanding. Let's take a moment to appreciate our own role in this, supporting them, and each other, every step of the way.

With big hugs and gratitude,

Your fellow physician spouse


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