Top Ten Tips for Surviving Residency - From a Male Medical Spouse and Father

My wife walks in the door, sits down at the dinning room table (a rare occurrence) with her plastered spattered scrubs and blood stained surgical clogs and immediately tells us about her hellish and complicated day. Like always she has commanded the conversation without even a hello. She is not alone in deciding what is important and who should speak first for she has been trained to be economic with thought and word. She is not alone in deciding what what's important and who should speak first. For most other families I've spoken with who are part of the medical fraternity, whether doctor, resident, intern, or med student it's the same for them. Residents in particular need to ventilate and in their mind are sharing events that should also be interesting to their families. Normally it is but not when the kids have been waiting to share their day with their MD MOM or DR Dad. They want to feel that their day was as important to you as is their time. So starting the conversation off usually confuses and frustrates the lot of us. My resident wife just doesn't get it as she is so geared up and irritable after being on call there simply isn't enough space in her to think of anyone else. Most of her fellow residents are the same with their spouses. Most recent research and surveys support the above. So I thought I'd help with a "cheat sheet for residents relationships." Below are ten tips. Cut them out. Paste them to your gray matter. It will help you, your family, spouse or significant other.

1. 60 Seconds: That's all it takes to make a call and leave a message. It lets the other side know you are thinking about them and although you are not there you wish you were. We, conversely, know you don't have any time, that your about to scrub up, go into 4 hours of operations, have an unexpected crisis, can't be home again on time BUT it doesn't matter if we get a quick thought from you.

2. Understanding: This is a tough one for residents, doctors, and med students to grasp let alone implement. We want you to understand US, what our day is like, and the troubles we have, and the sacrifices we make. We already know yours. You have to be proactive with understanding our issues. If you missed yet again your daughters field day event or play try and understand her frustration and anger. Don't try and diminish it with your facts as to your absence. If your wife or husband has had it yet again because you were not there to help, float with their frustration instead of fighting upstream with another explanation.

3. Unexpected: Try anything unexpected to counter the predictable drudgery our routine. Buy a pair of baseball tickets or take your daughter to a rock concert. Distinguish yourself by the unusual as you are so predictable. Get a babysitter, make dinner reservations but you do it and not have your spouse or kids do it for you.

4. Communicate: Also tough to do. Try and continually communicate everything from desires to common items. Problems begin when issues get postponed or worse bottled up inside. Then when they are vented they usually are volcanic. Try and explain your position in a non-assertive non-personal manner. Perhaps over wine and cheese.

5. Make Time: The impossible, elusive, unheard of time. I know that there is none and yet if you don't carve out some you become distant to others. You have become so time sensitive that you're irritated if it takes a few moments to explain a thought. But you must adjust yourself to the timing of others that are not wrapped up in your timelessness.

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