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Everyone knows that medical school and residency are stressful for young physicians. The AMA Alliance knows that the training years can be just as challenging for the physician's spouse. Our new blog offers resources to provide specific support for partners of physicians in training, as well as assistance in finding an Alliance in your area.

We know that support for the family of medicine is most comforting when it is provided by the family of medicine.

To learn more about the Young Member Connection please view our first blog entry here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life After Match Day

On a bitterly cold January night I sat anxiously next to my telephone waiting on the call that would determine the next six years of our lives. It was call telling me where Libby had matched in Urologic Surgery. My now wife, Libby, was perched in front of her computer nervously clicking the refresh button on her email awaiting the response. Shortly after midnight, she called and said that she had matched in Omaha. My immediate response was complete shock as we were planning on staying in Kansas City and had made no plans to move anywhere, especially not to Omaha. In fact, we didn’t even know anyone in Omaha, but we were going and had to make it work. The following is a synopsis about our initial experiences as a newly married couple who were married, moved to a brand new city, and began a new life. These are simply some things that I wish someone had told me before we embarked on the insanity known as residency.

As the spouse of an intern, you have made a commitment that no one except another resident’s spouse will understand. You have committed yourself and your marriage to the care and well being of the local community’s indigent population. You have committed yourself to be there and to take care of your spouse in health, but mostly sickness. The best assumption that I ever made is that I am all that I have and must make it work for the family. Your spouse is going to live at the hospital and thus, will not be home to do many of the things that a “normal” spouse could do. This includes everything from banking, normal daily chores (i.e. cooking/laundry), and housing.

In the beginning, the best decision we made was renting when we first moved to Omaha. We rented a nice 900 sq ft. townhouse that was the perfect size for a new couple who had just relocated. The only drawback was that the nice, new townhouse was 25 minutes away from the hospital. The travel time, however, could easily be doubled during the winter with the weather and traffic accidents. We estimated that she would easily be able to save ten hours of driving per week if we only lived closer to the hospital which prompted me to begin looking for a house (Remember “home call” does not count towards the eighty-hour work week and is becoming more popular).

We found a colonial home that needed some attention and I felt up for the job. For three solid months of construction during the coldest winter in recent Nebraskan memory, I along with numerous craftsmen renovated our home. This was not a good idea. This was an unnecessary stress and strain that could have been avoided. If you are looking at a house, buy one that has either been renovated, is new or does not require extensive renovation. This way, you can avoid the terror that we experienced during January 2008.

During the winter of 2008, Libby was on her Pediatric Surgery rotation and was dealing with the N.I.C.U., which was incredibly taxing on her emotionally. I was not able to be there for her when she needed me at that time because I was working at the house when she was not at the hospital. She was not able to be at the house because it was disaster with electricians, plumbers, carpenters and floor refinishers all there at the same time. Please remember that your spouse is giving everything that they have at work and may not be able to contribute much to you when they get home. It will be you who will be responsible for maintaining a “normal” life at home.

It’s your responsibility to maintain a normal sense of life at home and have found this to be extremely important. We found that some of the best times that we have had in Omaha have been when we have done the mundane such as going on a picnic, going to the symphony or simply going on a hike in a state park. Omaha has a plethora of parks, thus picnics and walks with our dog, Daisy, have become a favorite past time. Don’t forget about local museums and the symphony either. Libby found that the Omaha Symphony has tickets for $19.00 each! While we don’t go often, an evening at the symphony is a welcomed two hours of serenity. Also, look into the possibility of a state park pass. An annual pass for the Nebraska State Park system is $20. We typically get out on Saturday mornings and go for short hikes. It’s amazing how a walk in the woods does wonders for the psyche.

Finally, never give up on your spouse because they need you. They are undertaking a truly incredible mental, physical endeavor and may not be able to help with the everyday challenges. They need you to supply a firm foundation on which to stand during these trying years. There will be many trial and tribulations but, the light is still burning brightly at the end of the tunnel. If it ever gets to be too much then, simply reach out. Don’t forget the Alliance is here for you and you are not alone! There are hundreds of other people who are either going through or have gone through exactly the same conditions as you are experiencing. The Alliance is an incredible group of people and is always here. The Alliance is an amazing group of people with incredible advice and insight into the residency years. However, the most inspiring advice came from Chief Resident who said, “they (the hospital) can’t stop the clock”. This will end eventually and for us we only have four years and twenty eight days to go!


Sincerely,
Andrew Maddox
Omaha

If you would like to share your story, please email it to mailto:Ziegler@ama-assn.org

2 comments:

Kathy L said...

Andrew,
Your comments bring back so many memories. I was four months pregnant when we waited to hear the results of where Gene matched, and eight months prenant when we moved to Wichita. I remember sitting in my hospital room after delivery and crying because I was going home to an empty house in a town where I didn't know anyone. Gene dropped me and our new son off at the house, went and got me a hamburger, apologized and raced back to the hospital.

Fortunately, the other residents' wives got togehter and dropped by in the next few days with food, friendship, and a list of phone numbers to call if I needed help. They even threw us a baby shower.

The experiences and friendships you will have during residency will stay with you for a lifetime. You will have many challenges, but you will have so many positive experiences as well. Don't forget to reach out and ask for help if you need it.

Laura said...

Thanks so much for this good advice and reassuring words.