The year was 1998, I was a high school senior and my high school sweetheart Kirk who at the time was a college freshman had just announced that he had decided to go Pre-Med—I was amazed. In my amazement, little did I know of the blood, sweat and tears that it would take to get M.D behind his name. Okay, maybe not a lot of sweat but there was for sure blood and tears. After Kirk graduated from undergrad we were married and we have journeyed together through 4 years Med-school, the dreaded Intern year, a three year residency program and now 7 years on the other side of training as a practicing physician. While in Med School I found solidarity and friendship in of a handful of women I affectionally call the “MED-WIVES”. When Simi invited me to share my experience I wanted to get their input as well. In the spirit of sharing what has been true for us–Here are five truths about being married to a physician.
1. Grey’s Anatomy is not real, however YOUR doctor is.
All doctors are jerks.
Doctors don’t care what it cost the patients they are only worried about getting rich.
Oh your husbands a doctor? Are you afraid he’s sleeping with the nurses at the hospital? You know they do that!
Saw you went on vacation. Guess my kids broken arm paid for that.
Being a doctor must be so exciting. Do people die on the table all the time?
Oh must be nice to be married to a doctor and have all that money.
These are just a few of the things people have said.
Doctors are real people. They have feelings. Their families have feelings.
And please know, your kids broken arm did not pay for our entire vacation.
Throughout the years there have been a multitude of comments made when someone hears my husband is a physician. Some of these comments well meaning, some hurtful and the rest based unfortunately off what they’ve seen on popular television. Thank you Grey’s Anatomy.
Television, movies, social media and public opinion sometimes form images of physicians as rich, greedy, selfish, adulterous with their staff or co-workers or that the hospital is this exciting place full of drama. Truth is sometimes this characterization is correct for doctors but it holds true for a whole lot of other professions too. Thankfully, most of the doctors I know don’t fit this made for t.v mold. I think how doctors are portrayed on screens and through news articles gives people the sense that they are at liberty to say anything and make over generalizations about Physicians as a whole which sometimes results in our families hearing un-kind things about doctors. Unfortunate but true. Thankfully throughout the years the kind words and personal thank you cards received have outweighed the negative and for that we are grateful. So next time you hear generalized comments about doctors please know that doctors are real people with feelings. Their families are proud of them and what they do and it hurts to hear off-handed comments about their people.
2. There is a LOT I don’t know.
That rash on your kids leg? Weird pain in your foot? Buzzing in your ear? Doctors wives don’t know UNLESS they are a doctor themselves. While we may have gone through the motions of medical school and residency helping our spouses study or sat beside them countless times in the car while they take medical questions from family, friends & the neighbor down the street when you ask us, nine times out of ten, we don’t know and are probably going to tell you to go to the doctor. Another thing, I don’t know is when my husband is coming home. When is Dad coming home is a question I get almost daily from my kids. You see, my husband works non-traditional hours. He leaves the house at dark and sometimes he doesn’t come home until dark. Sometimes he comes home at three in the afternoon. We never know his schedule until the day before and even when he has an end time that is within a window of two hours. This makes planning challenging. As I write this, I am glancing at the clock, wondering if my husband is going to make it out of the hospital in time for us to meet up with friends. Its hard to know, because emergencies come up and patients always come before ice cream socials on a Friday night.3. Medicine for my husband is a calling not just his vocation.I will say up front, this is not the case for all physicians. For some physicians–Medicine is their job. Their means to an end. However, from the time Kirk decided to pursue medicine he knew he wanted to go into it to serve and treat people who couldn’t otherwise afford or receive medical care. To this day–Kirk loves what he believes God has called him to do through medicine and is grateful to get to practice medicine as vocation and calling. This calling of serving patients and their families means long hours, working nights, weekends and holidays so the public has access to great medical care every day of the year. Seeing their parents for an hour or two a day, celebrating Christmas on a different day because it’s Dad’s turn to work Christmas this year and charting late into the wee hours of the night when you would rather be snuggled up with your spouse are just a few ways physicians put patients first. However this calling is not without blessing as my husband has gotten the opportunity to give away his skills and medical training through International medical mission trips to Africa, India, Guatemala and Mexico with organizations like Operation Smile, Refuge International and Mercy Ships. These opportunities to serve within his “sweet spot” in life has made practicing medicine a richer life experience. In his day to day life as a physician here in Oklahoma, he is blessed to work in a Health System that allows him the opportunity to pray and encourage patients prior to surgery. This has been a blessing to him as much as he probably is blessing the patients.
4. Rising medical costs affect us too
Some might believe that doctors are hoping for rising medical costs because somehow it may affect their bottom line. Let me assure you that rising insurance premiums, sky rocketing prescription prices and lack of coverage is a concern for us too and doesn’t impact our pockets as much as one might think. We are blessed to have a doctor in the house to reassure us when we get sick and colleagues friends to run issues by but most of the time when we are sick we load up in the car and go to the doctor and wait just like anyone else. This past year, our youngest son had surgery and we found ourselves on the phone with insurance companies, navigating getting approvals and coordinating his coverage. Then our insurance company switched. Yikes.
No easy feat even with an M.D in the house.
5. Medicine is a family business
Countless family dinners in the hospital cafeteria, our kids being understanding when Dad’s staying late due to an emergency, accompanying Kirk on medical mission trips, the birthday cakes in overnight call rooms, neighbors walking kids down to have Kirk look at cuts on Saturday morning, the daily praying for my husband, nurses, support staff, surgeons and patients and then there are the calls that take my husband to the hospital in the middle of the night. These are just a few of the ways we as a family are involved in my husbands work–the extraordinary in our ordinary day to day lives of a medical family that I love. Okay, maybe I don’t love the middle of the night pages to the hospital but I do love getting to support my husband in his calling to encourage and bring comfort to people who find themselves facing a scary or vulnerable moment in life like surgery. Being married to medicine isn’t always easy. There is the stress of managing most things on my own. There are times we miss our Doctor Dad/husband and wish he could stay home and play the day away but mostly we are proud how he puts patients first, treating people of all walks of life with the same kindness, dignity and respect and are we encouraged to serve others in similar ways individually and as a family by this example.