× Thinking of a Becoming a Doctor

possible to have family/ be surgeon?

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6 years 4 months ago #90506 by R2J121
Im a junior in college as a pre-medicine/ spanish double major. Medicine has been something I've wanted to go into since I could remember. But lately, as graduation, internships, and the MCAT approaches I've begun to seriously consider if this really is the avenue I want to pursue. I specifically want to go in to surgery, more than likely trauma. I believe why I'm struggling so much with this decision is the internal battle of how realistic that lifestyle looks if I also want to become a mother?
I'm in a very serious relationship and we've discussed marriage... school comes first so we've agreed to not get married until after under-grad. As far as medical school he is extremely supportive and encourages me often to pursue that dream. However I'm concerned that maybe he doesn't quite understand what that would mean on a marriage even though he too wanted to be a doctor at one point before he found his true passion. We've also talked about children. We agree that we want to be married first for a while and that in medical school/ residency wouldn't be the best decision..
I guess what I'm getting at, is can you have both? Can you be a mother, wife, and surgeon and have a fairly stable lifestyle in this field of medicine without too many sacrifices?
I grew up in a military home and my father's job was his life. It resulted in a very strained relationship for the majority of my life. I dont want my children to think I didnt love them. Is there a way to balance it where you can love your job as a surgeon and love and have time to invest into your family?
And on the other hand how does being a surgeon strictly affect a serious relationship/ marriage?
Don't get me wrong medicine is my passion. I love it. It is so fascinating to me. And I certainly dont want a job thats the same thing every day.
Maybe I just don't know what to expect, so it scares me. What does the lifestyle of a trauma surgeon or really any surgeon look like?

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6 years 4 months ago #90507 by newmommdphd

R2J121 wrote: I guess what I'm getting at, is can you have both? Can you be a mother, wife, and surgeon and have a fairly stable lifestyle in this field of medicine without too many sacrifices?...Is there a way to balance it where you can love your job as a surgeon and love and have time to invest into your family?
And on the other hand how does being a surgeon strictly affect a serious relationship/ marriage?


Short answer to your first and second questions... is no. Surgeons work 80-100 hours per week during training. This means you start work at 6am or earlier and you get home at 7pm or later, six days per week. And so you don't see your child in the morning and often don't see them at night. This is not unique to surgery - many fields of medicine involve long and difficult hours. Surgery is just more long and difficult hours than other fields. I have a close family member who is a surgeon. She has not had time to sleep or care for herself, let alone have a family. Surgery is probably the least family friendly field you could choose. I would never describe it as a "fairly stable lifestyle." The hours are unpredictable especially in trauma surgery -- think about it -- cars crash and people get shot at all hours of the night. And your question of "without too many sacrifices" -- what is "too many" to you? Are you ok going without sleep, food, and bathroom breaks? That's one type of sacrifice you will be asked to make in surgery. Your own basic needs may not be met, let alone those of your family. If your husband is willing to quit his job and be a full time stay at home dad, you could successfully balance surgery and family...and what I mean by balance is that you would work and your husband would care for the kids. Not that you personally would have time to do both. I would talk to some surgeons yourself to get a sense of their lives. But I will tell you I specifically avoided surgery and chose a field of medicine where I knew I would have time for my child, and I STILL don't feel balanced. I still feel like my time with him is inadequate. If you want a "controllable lifestyle" I would become a nurse practitioner or physician assistant instead of a doctor, regardless of specialty choice. Doctors work hard and long hours in all fields.

As to the impact on a marriage, I can't specifically speak to surgery. But medicine and medical training in general is hard on a marriage. When you don't have time to see your spouse, it's difficult to maintain a relationship. And it's hard when you're home so little, because you need to sleep, too! I think it takes open communication and realistic expectations from all parties to maintain a marriage during medical school and residency.

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6 years 4 months ago - 6 years 4 months ago #90509 by southernmd
Everything newmommdphd says about is true. Second that response.

Honestly, I really get tired of hearing from people sometimes that you can "make anything work."

It is much easier to make some specialties "work" vs. others. The surgery residency at my institution had a 110% (yes this was their claim to fame) divorce rate for years. I'm not sure if this is still true, but it is disturbing. It is NOT family friendly. Period.

But then again, residency isn't family-friendly. Family friendly in my opinion - is like 30 hours a week of work, and NOTHING will give you that in residency. YOu just have to decide if you have supports in place to make this work for you. The hours aren't going to support it, so you have to design your own way to cope and survive through this. At least - this is what newmommdphd and I and the other interns on this board seem to be doing.

Nothing about my 87 hour week the other week was family-friendly, though. And I'm not in surgery. The prelim surgery residents are one breath away from violating work hours constantly. I'm still within limits.
Last Edit: 6 years 4 months ago by .

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6 years 4 months ago #90519 by southernmd
Bumping, because I have a feeling others should see this and weigh in...

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6 years 4 months ago #90525 by Emily2651
I know a trauma surgeon/mother. Actually I knew her when she was a SICU fellow. She has two kiddos, I think they're around 3 and 1 or 2ish. Husband is also a surgeon. Her post-grad job (that she had yet to start when she was telling me about it) involves a 60-90 m commute, then 72 HOURS ON CALL STRAIGHT per week. So she is working 3 days, then off four. Rinse, repeat. I have no idea if this is remotely representative of life as a trauma surgeon ... but the really chilling thing is that she was totally psyched about this job because it was going to be so .... wait for it ... family friendly.

Not even kidding.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. -- Isak Dinesen

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6 years 4 months ago #90527 by southernmd
That sounds horrible. Period.

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