Life as a Resident: Things You Need (but may not want) to Know

Exactly one year ago today, I wrote an entry titled “Five Things Med School Has Taught Me: Spouse Edition”: I highly encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. Even though Matt and I are no longer in the med school world, residency is a world of its own, and while I didn’t plan on writing this entry exactly a year later, the timing sure is appropriate.

  1. Yes, my husband has the initials D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) behind his name. No, that does not mean we are made of money. Med school costs money. Board exams cost money. Rotations and all involved (hotel stays, airfare, gas, interview clothes) cost money. The graduation cap and gown costs money. The move for residency costs money. Being 300K+ in debt for a career is not something many people know and while that’s okay because it’s not relevant to them, please stop assuming new doctors are rich: They’re not.
  2. Residency is a sacrifice for all parties involved, not just the new doctor. Medical school was tough, but being a resident intern takes thing to a new level. Matt is currently working day 8/13 (including being on-call this past weekend) and averaging 12 hour days at the hospital. His pager is attached to his hip (yes, pagers still exist and no, neither of us knew how it worked when he got it) and he continuously checks on his patients from his phone. His world is medicine and uses terms I usually Google when he’s done talking. His nights are often late and even though it really sucks, I’ve gotten used to flying solo to many outings and group activities.
  3. He has no control over his schedule. The shifts for the residents are planned in advance, and although he does have allotted vacation times, there are certain rotations when it cannot be used. Leaving early because of an evening activity isn’t an option either. Don’t get me wrong: Married Couples’ Small Group is fine by yourself, but it’s much better when your spouse can be there too.
  4. They will continue to question themselves. Becoming a doctor is a huge deal, but the pressure and expectations put on them immediately after earning their degree is enormous. While on-call yesterday, Matt had to deal with a situation via phone to a nurse to discuss medication options for a patient he had seen previously. As he’s flipping through his medicine book (I’m sure there’s a proper title and I just don’t know what it is!), he sounded confident that his advice was correct. Afterwards, he got off the phone, sat down next to me on the couch, and said, “Boy, do I pray that was the right thing.” Doctors are stressed and stretched thin in general, but new doctors are expected to learn and treat at the same time. It’s a challenging and rewarding spot to be in all at once.
  5. Be their sounding board. Seriously. There have been days where he comes home and needs to vent about this that and the other thing. Other days, all he wants is lay on the couch with Miner and Leia and decompress. Matt may be exhausted at the end of the day, but he’s also incredibly happy, and that makes this whole crazy journey worthwhile.
  6. Lastly, be proud of them for all they’ve accomplished and be proud of yourself for sticking it out together. The road to being a physician isn’t easy and the majority of people only see fancy cars and big homes at the end of it. They didn’t see the late nights of studying, the scrubbing blood out of a white coat, or the anticipation while waiting for board scores to appear. It’s a bumpy ride, but it’s so much better together!

 

 

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Calm in the Chaos

I’m going be real and raw here for a quick second: This move has been harder than I’ve let on. True, I’m happy where we are and most days I’m perfectly fine. Others, not so much. Without getting into the intimate details, it’s difficult uprooting your life every four years to move to a new place: College, grad school, medical school, and now residency. Last night, Matt and I were talking about this topic, and I told him how happy I was in West Virginia. He responded with, “no, you were comfortable, which made you happy. You’re not comfortable here yet.”

BAM. Way to tell it how it is husband, way to tell it how it is. He’s 100% correct too. I wasn’t initially comfortable in WV, but as I found a job and made friends who had similar interests, things got better. He assured that things will here too, although it may take time. Right now, I’m really trying to get my health back that was put on the back burner for so long in West Virginia. I’ve been walking the dogs an average of 14 miles a week and doing yoga 3-4 days a week, both which I knew are helping me physically and emotionally. Matt and I are getting back into meal planning and conscious eating (with the exception of chocolate chip cookies because, let’s be real, they stay in all circumstances), which has been good for our waistlines and wallets. I’ve been active in becoming a secondhand reseller on Poshmark and enjoying it very much. I’m also soaking up every day with my pets since time with them will be less when I do start a job, and their happiness enhances mine.

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Delco Park – 8:00AM – The loves of my life 

Most mornings I walk the dogs around our neighborhood, but I was feeling something different today. Ever wake up and just feel off? Well, that was me at 6:00AM when I officially rolled out of bed and said bye to Matt. I ended up taking the dogs to Delco Park to walk around the lake. Rather than the bustle of the school buses and cars driving by, the lake was so peaceful and calm. The breeze was blowing leaves everywhere (could fall really be on its way?!?!) and the sound of the water was so soothing. The stillness and quiet did my anxious self good. Plus, my companions were pretty cute 🙂

Just like the change of place for this morning’s walk was good, I need to keep telling myself that so was our move to Ohio. In another four years when we move again, that move will be good too. You know what else is good? God is good. Life is good. The sunshine is good. The fresh air is good: All things I’m surrounded by on a daily basis that I don’t even notice when my internal chaotic mess is stirring. Trying to find calm in the midst of chaos make not be as easy as a walk in the park, but I’m grateful that this morning’s was all it took.

Graduation, Another Move, and a New Home!!

Well, it finally happened. Matt graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. *insert proud wife smile here*

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Dr. Matthew Smith, D.O. 

Four years seemed so long, yet they flew by so fast. West Virginia was good to us, and I mean really good to us. We got married and celebrated three anniversaries there, made lifelong friendships, I started my Social Work career with a state job, added three adorable fur babies to our previous pack of two, and I found my passion and heart for animal rescue. Oh, and of course Matt became a doctor 😉 West Virginia was truly Almost Heaven. However, as one chapter ends, another one must open. For us, that chapter is Dayton, Ohio, where Matt will be spending the next four years as a Neurology resident with Kettering Health Network. Although we were initially scared and nervous to start over again in a new state, the excitement soon took over and we began planning the next phase of our lives.

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The next step involved finding a place to live, and big news alert: WE BOUGHT OUR FIRST HOME! There are special mortgage loans available to residents due to the sheer amount of debt they’re in after graduating, and we were extremely fortunate to not only get approved, but also work with fantastic realtors. They were a husband and wife team and made the process a breeze for us, especially since we did 95% of everything out-of-state. We had three hours to look at homes on one visit to Dayton and then 1.5 hours over lunch to decide on a house. Well, the Lord must have known what He was doing because we absolutely love the home where we ended up. It meets each of our needs and beyond. There are tasks that need to be done, so I’ll make a mini checklist here so then it’s in writing and I know they must be done! 1) Clean front door 2) Paint white sides of door 3) Paint lamppost out front 4) Pull weeds 5) Try and not to kill the plants that were here when we moved in.

Although this post could go on and on if I shared all the intricate details of the move (DO NOT get an upper respiratory infection when moving), I will simply leave you with some pictures of favorite aspects of our house. We are proud of how far we’ve come to get here, and it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to call this house our home.

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Hello and welcome to our home!

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How long do I give until these are dead….?

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Love that window!

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Matt’s home contribution 😉

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For me a house or an apartment becomes a home when you add one set of four legs, a happy tail, and that indescribable measure of love that we call a dog. -Roger Caras

Plastic: Everywhere and Inevitable

Have you ever done something you’ve done hundreds of times only to realize the impact your action is making this one time in particular? I have eaten Rita’s Italian Ice for years and never thought twice about getting a plastic spoon at the counter. That is, until a few days ago when my husband and I took our dogs for a treat after a day of painting in our new house. I hadn’t been to a Rita’s in years since there isn’t one anywhere near us in WV at all and didn’t even think twice that I would be given a plastic spoon with my order. As soon as she handed it to me, I thought, “Where are my reusable utensils when I need them?!” Of course, if I would have ordered a Misto to drink, I didn’t have my reusable straw either and would have been stuck with a plastic one, something I try to avoid at all costs. Four years ago, using plastic silverware or a straw wouldn’t have fazed me. Today, it bothers me knowing that so much energy and resources are used to make something designed to be used once and then thrown away. As a whole, I feel society has the attitude of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to garbage. As soon as the lid shuts, we forget what we threw away. I know because I’ve been there. When I started doing research into my waste and carbon footprint, I was floored at how I preached recycling on one hand and was so wasteful on the other. My attitude today is much different than it was even a year ago. I don’t believe in overnight changes because let’s face it, we would all fail. I believe in baby steps toward change. Buy a reusable silverware set, a reusable straw, and use cloth bags at the grocery store. Simply say no to straws at a restaurant. Bring your own water bottle EVERYWHERE; it’s cheaper, better for you, and keeps plastic water bottles out of the landfill. My two favorites are Contigo and S’Well, which are durable and hold up extremely well. Hydro Flask and Yeti are two other high-quality brands if you want to splurge a bit, but Contigo and S’Well have worked fine for me. I could go on and on about the importance of using reusable items and ditching disposables, but for the sake of time and attention spans, I will leave it here:

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Where is your item going when it’s no longer needed?

I encourage everyone to think about their purchases and their environmental impact. Is an entire zero-waste lifestyle attainable for the long-term? Likely not simply based on the world we live in and accessibility (or lack thereof) in many areas to more sustainable options. It is possible, however, to reduce our impact and be more conscious with our purchases and where we invest our money. The planet and future generations will thank you!

The Beginning of the End

This is just a quick entry so I always have today’s events to remember. The days are winding down at work (two weeks left) and reality is setting in that my time there is ending. It’s hard to believe it was three years ago that I took my first application at DRS and felt like a bumbling clueless idiot. Well, today I took my last application with total confidence in my abilities as a Vocational Rehab Counselor, which is something I never thought I would be able to do. Matt also finished his rotations today, which means HE IS OFFICIALLY DONE WITH MEDICAL SCHOOL! Like me, he had no confidence when he started this wild ride four years ago. Today, he can ramble off diagnoses, symptoms, and treatment plans like it’s nobody’s business. Not to mention he’s decided on Neurology as a speciality, which is just plain awesome. Isn’t it funny how even the most confident person in the room once started off without knowing anything at all? It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, especially when you’re considered a “professional” and expectations are set making it seem like you NEED to know everything. News flash: No one knows everything. I’m scared to death of starting a new job in a few months because I’ll have to start all over again. Matt will have to start over again. Starting over is hard. It will be okay because we’ve done it before, but we need to remember that in four months when we’re freaking out that we’re not learning things quick enough.

For real though, I cannot believe I can officially say Matt is done with medical school classes forever. As the wife who was brought out-of-state and into unfamiliar territory so he could do this, I must say I’m extremely proud of him. Here is a photo collage of him on the first day of each year of medical school: Top L-first year, Top R-second year, Bottom L-third year, and Bottom R-Fourth year. Graduation in 37 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Let’s Try This Again…

Since it has been six months since I’ve written anything on this page, I feel I’m way overdue for some blog sessions to start back up again. So much has happened in six months that it’s hard to comprehend how one person can handle it, truthfully. In a nutshell, Matt completed his three months away for audition rotations in Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania; interviewed for seven residency programs; MATCHED at his top choice in Dayton, Ohio, for Neurology (from the state of the Nittany Lion to the Mountaineers to the Buckeyes, here we go!); and have been traveling back and forth to PA to be with my mom who has been in and out of the hospital with Lupus complications. Oh, and in the midst of everything, I’m wrapping up my job of the past three years where my coworkers have become my family and leaving the state that I’ve called home for the past four years. And last but not least, WE BOUGHT OUR FIRST HOUSE!!! Our loan was approved and now we wait to close in six weeks 🙂 In the midst of this mess, it’s amazing how God truly has provided for our needs.

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A whirlwind 48 hour Brooklyn adventure.

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Laughter heals the soul.

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View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

I’m determined to not let time get the best of me and avoid writing for so long. I need to write because it beats punching pillows or letting it all out at Matt. As we were packing today, I came across journals and quote books I’ve kept since I was 13 years old. They’re the kind of books that I read and cringe, but also want my future children to have to reflect and learn from. Reading some of the entries in there was what made me actually decide to sit down at 10pm on a Saturday night and write again. I will continue with this later, but for now, I leave with the human beings and small adventures that have gotten me through the past six months.

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Thankful for these goons who are with me every step of the way.

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Spent some time with one of my best friends and her baby girl 🙂

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Nephew time at Thanksgiving.

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Clearly trainings are taken seriously in vocational rehabilitation 

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Friends who do brunch do it right.

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29th birthday shenanigans in a snowstorm.

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My faithful companions.

 

Five Things Med School Has Taught Me (Spouse Edition)

I will never forget the first day of medical school three years ago. Not only because Matt came home and said “What on earth have I gotten myself into?” but because the spouses/significant others had their own orientation on how to adjust to life living with a med student and we all left thinking the same thing as Matt: “What on earth have we gotten ourselves into and how on earth are we going to survive the next four years?” Well, the countdown to graduation is on (244 days!) and the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly coming into view. We were told a great deal at orientation, truthfully many things that probably did more harm than good, but below are 5 things that I wish someone had told me when I agreed to come along on this crazy journey.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to all your friends who are buying houses, starting families, and who give the impression they have it all together.  Trust me. They usually don’t, and I feel your pain. There have been numerous occasions when I wish we owned a house instead of rented, our loans were getting paid off instead of accruing, and we felt comfortable planning a family now instead of waiting until residency when we feel a bit more stable both financially and emotionally. Those who aren’t on this journey have no idea how unstable our lives actually are, and guess what? That’s okay. It’s unrealistic for them to get it because they aren’t going through it. However, you will eventually get to a point when you can have the house you absolutely love instead of the tiny rental with the green walls and the bathroom in the dining room; you will eventually start paying off your loans because believe me when I say they aren’t going anywhere; and lastly, your children, if you decide to have them, will come when you’re ready. Some people feel comfortable having children in medical school. Matt and I don’t, and that is okay. Do what works for you right now because it won’t last forever. fullsizeoutput_36ab
  2. Get involved. Volunteer at a local humane society (insert shameless plug here and see cute animal photos below), find a church family, join a gym, or find a job. You will need the community and support of other people, especially during the first two years when your spouse/significant other is rarely home. The time spent with him or her when they are home will be treasured and appreciated, but make the time to do something other than wait for them to get home.

3. Figure out your financial situation early and stick to a budget. Matt and I lived on his loans for the first 8 months we were living here and it was hard. We came from a lifestyle where he was making $25 an hour, so suddenly having to figure out money was a real struggle. I’ve always been a relatively thrifty shopper, but having to actually budget was a challenge and something we still are figuring out. If you cannot afford to go out to dinner with friends, suggest eating at home instead and having a game night. Instead of drinks, buy a mix at Walmart and have them at home. Be realistic about your finances and know what you should and should not be spending money on. Unfortunately, you will face people who think that because your husband/wife will be a doctor, then you shouldn’t be worrying about money. That could not be farther from the truth. Now is the time when you need to come together and evaluate your financial situation so you know how to handle it when you are more stable down the road.

4. Take advantage of all opportunities for extra income. I was fortunate enough to obtain a job that not only do I enjoy, but gives us a cushion to sit on financially. It’s not a large cushion, but I’m thankful it’s there. However, I do not depend on my job and Matt’s student loans to meet all our needs; we simply cannot with how much med school costs and all the expenses around it (rotations, traveling, lodging, board exams, etc). Not only do I still print paper coupons (yes, I use electronic ones too), but I use my iPhone religiously with cash back and saving apps. What I earn each month in those apps pays for a couple tanks of gas, which makes paying the additional money each month to have a smartphone worthwhile. I’ve mentioned some of the apps briefly before (see thrifty living tab), but I cannot emphasize their important enough. Ibotta: Cash back app where you earn money on things you’re already buying whether it’s at Kroger, Target, Walmart, CVS, Kohl’s, a restaurant, and even convenience stores. Uploading the receipt takes a few extra minutes at the end of each shopping trip, but it’s worth it to earn a few extra bucks. My referral code if you’re interested is kiqiglb. Checkout 51 is another good cash back app, but the checks must be deposited at a physical bank; mobile deposit will not work since they’re Canadian checks. Saving Star, another cash back app, lets you cash out in PayPal after only earning $5, and that’s ridiculously easy if you grocery shop a lot. Shopkick is an awesome way to earn “kicks” and then redeem them for gift cards.  Super easy and lots of “kicks” can be earned just by scanning items in the store! Referral code is COOL049763 if you’re interested. Receipt Hog gives points just by uploading your receipts, which is something we all get after we grocery shop anyway. Might as well earn something from them! The Walmart Savings Catcher App scans other stores and gives you money on an e-gift card if a lower price is found. I also sell clothing and miscellaneous items on both Poshmark and Mercari, AND buy stuff online using Ebates, a site that puts a percentage of your purchase into an account and you get a check four times a year: Referral code is https://www.ebates.com/r/ALEKAN4?eeid=28187 if you’d like to join and get some money in your account right away. These sound like a lot of work, but I assure they’re not. Knowing how to make a little extra each month is a great way to either put some additional funds in savings or pay bills you otherwise wouldn’t be able to make.

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Top L to bottom R: Shopkick, Receipt Hog, Checkout 51, Saving Star, Ibotta 

5. Learn to be okay being alone. At orientation, we were told that 85% of couples in med school end in divorce. I’m not sure if it’s actually that high, but as a young couple not even married when this journey began (we were married two months later), that is not what any of us wanted to hear. You will be spending a lot of time alone the first two years (and when they’re gone for 4 months the last year on audition rotations), so it is important you find stuff to stay busy. Take up a new hobby. Walk your dogs. Volunteer. Call family back home or go visit them. Make new friends. Don’t stop the activities you want to do simply because your significant other isn’t around to share them with you. Believe me, when you are able to be together, you’ll appreciate it so much more. I know personally that dinnertime was (and still is) the roughest part of the day. I like to have dinner together and he would be at the school studying until 9pm more times than I can count. He wasn’t there that late because he wanted to, but rather his course load was intense and required hours of studying outside the classroom. Your significant other wants to be with you as much as you want to be with them, but please realize that it will get easier. I remember Matt telling me in the beginning that knowing I was struggling to be happy was causing him pain, which shouldn’t have happened. As his wife, his partner, and biggest supporter, I should have been there for him and encouraged him during this process; he already felt guilty enough for bringing me along on this crazy ride. As I learned to love myself more and gained confidence, I became happier and the ride got a little bit easier. Do I miss him while he’s on rotations? More than I can possibly say. However, I know this will end and I can confidently say that learning to be more independent is not a bad thing. When you’re okay, your significant other will be better as well.

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My faithful sidekicks throughout this adventure. 

I hope these five things help you in some way, whether your significant other is a med student, a law student, in the military, or simply works long hours. It will get easier, I promise you!