Friday, March 2, 2012

We are Done!

Yes, you have a degree. Yes, you have a family or maybe one on the way. Yes, you worked hard. Yes, you have sacrificed much. And for all those things I say Congratulations! You did it!

Finishing medical school is a big deal, but don't let your exuberance blind you to the reality of what is coming up next.

The primary thing that you need to establish in your mind is that medical school isn't like other degree programs, or advanced degrees for that matter. Law school graduates, MBA's, etc start working at competitive wages right after graduation. Seemingly overnight, they go from being mired in student debt and Ramen noodles, to having an income that is significantly larger than the one they previously had. That is not us. Yes, we went to school longer. Yes, they will hand out a diploma that says "Doctor". But what no one told you is that you aren't really done. You are almost done. Undergraduate degree was just the beginning. Medical school is the middle. Residency is the end (or at least when you finish it will be, unless your DrH wants to do a fellowship - then fellowship is the end).

For all intents and purposes internship/residency is more schooling without tuition payments and no access to student loans. When you actually graduate from that program in 3-7 years, depending on your desired specialty, THEN you will be done. That is the graduation certificate that officially says it is now over, welcome to your career.

I remember the first few conversations I had with people we meet in our new city now that DrH was officially a "doctor". They were awkward. I am sure they couldn't figure out why I was driving an old beat up car and my kids were wearing clothes from the thrift store, and my purse wasn't a brand they recognized. I had fears of people looking up my address and taking a Sunday drive hoping to get a glimpse of the "doctors" house only to be disappointed when they found a 35 year old bi-level ranch with a sinking driveway and peeling paint.

They would ask innocently what kind of doctor my husband was. Maybe he was the kind of doctor that doesn't make any money like my science teacher in high school who had a PhD. I would tell them that DrH was a intern and that we would be here for six years while he finishes his training in neurosurgery. Out of curiosity they would ask what that was, and I would explain it was a surgical speciality of the spine, nervous system, and brain. That would always get them. I married a brain surgeon. Yes, I did and here I am.

They would find clever ways to ask about how much money he made: "So does he get paid during his internship"? Without actually giving them the exact amount of money our family now earned instead of borrowed, I would tell them that he makes about the same as a school teacher in our particular state but works much longer. Everyone knows that teachers are underpaid, but compared to an intern/resident - we have them beat, hands down.

The funny thing is the women I had these initial conversations with are now real friends. They get it! Or maybe I just did a really good job explaining it.

Residency is still school/training and if you can approach it with that mindset you won't be disappointed.

Up Next: An Intern Must Make More Than A Medical Student, Right?


  1. I just came across your site today and I love it! My husband is just about to start MS2, so we're trying to enjoy the "last" summer he has. I have some girlfriends in med school, or trying to get in, so I have some outlets, but my family and peers at work don't seem to get it. They think in 3 years we're going to be very well off and I know that's not true. I'm thinking 10 years is more accurate- once student loans are paid off, etc.

    We would really like to start a family and be younger parents, but we know it would be more reasonable to wait until he's at least started his residency. I love working right now, but I would like to be a stay at home mom, especially considering I have epilepsy.< I think the lack of sleep with a newborn is enough stress to bring on an attack, let alone putting in a full day of work on top of that. When would you think is a good time to start having children, given this info and the fact that I would like to be a mom before I turn 30? We didn't come from rich families, in fact we were both the first college graduates from our household, so we don't need to live on much. We do, however want to live comfortably and not be stretched very thin financially. Any tips? advice?

    Thank you!

    1. There must be something magically about wanting to have kids before we turn 30. I was the same way! My son was born 5 months before my 30th birthday. I love being a mom in my 30's, but having children in your 20's sure has some benefits too! Our son was also born during what would have been MS4 (he took a year off for research between MS3 and MS4). Having children through residency, while difficult, has also proved to be a blessing for us. They have given me a sense of purpose and direction that I wouldn't have found with employment. I wouldn't have changed a thing. You will find the path and timing that is right for you. I probably don't say it enough, but my experience is just one of many - every journey is going to look a little different. Consider all your options. If you are the praying kind - do a lot of that too. Any situation can be made to work. Congratulations on completing MS1 and now on to MS2. This is an exciting time for you both - enjoy it. It will go by really fast. I promise:-)


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