A Day In The Life

This blog post was originally posted on September 5th as an update to a similar post I wrote during the last year of residency. It was a random week picked mostly during the month of August (the same time frame as the previous post). This is from his fellowship year. I look forward to doing another one as an attending next year.


A Day In The Life Update - Fellowship

Last year in August I detailed a week of my husbands work schedule. To provide some perspective on the changes from week to week, month to month, and year to year I've decided to take a snap shot once again of what the doctors work week looks like.

No two weeks are the same, no two months are the same, no two years are the same. Here is proof.

Sunday - OFF!
Monday 5:45 am - 7:10 pm (OR day) 14 hours
Tuesday 5:45 am - 3:15 pm (light OR day) 9.5 hours
Wednesday 5:45 am - 8:15 pm (clinic day/journal club) 14.5 hours
Thursday 5:45 am - 6:15 pm (OR day) 13.5 hours
Friday 5:45 am - 5:45 pm (OR day - 1 really long case) 12 hours.
Saturday - OFF!

Total hours worked for the week = 63.5. Overall, not that bad of a week. He didn't work Sunday or Saturday, and he wasn't on call at all this week.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. This week was awesome.

I was sweating bullets on Friday because he had purchased tickets to take our son to a MLB game that started at 7:00 pm. They were doing a huge case that had neurosurgery, head/neck, and plastics involved. He thought he would be cutting it close and that I might have to bring our son to the hospital so they could leave from there.

Everyone in the OR did what they did and there were no complications. Dad was home in time, and little boy had the best night of his life. Baseball with dad, ice cream in a plastic helmet and cotton candy.

It was a good week.

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P.S.  You should really read this next post about his weekend call the following week:-)


A Day In The Life - Residency

This was originally published as a blog entry on August 29, 2011 during his 6th and chief year as a neurosurgery resident. When August 2012 comes around I will post another week in review. I am curious to see how much changed between residency and fellowship.


From time to time I get asked how much my husband works. A LOT, doesn't really convey the magnitude. Honestly, I don't keep track anymore. When it comes down to it, I could try to count how many hours he is gone, but that has little meaning. Instead, I count the number of hours he is home when the kids are awake. The difference is needing both my hands and feet to count the one, versus one hand to count the other.

This week I decided I would keep track:

Sunday 2.5 hours 
Monday 0 hours
Tuesday 2 hours 
Wednesday 1.5 hours 
Thursday 0 hours
Friday 0 hours
Saturday 2 hours 

This week, he saw his children for a total of 8 hours. That averages one hour and ten minutes a day, but three of the days he didn't see them at all. The longest stretch of time between seeing the kids was 70 hours. And the time given for each day isn't time he is engaged with them, that is time is he home. Sadly, the time he does get really isn't the time when they are at their best. It's usually after dinner and time to get ready for bed.... that's not a fun time. The kids have had a long day, I've had a long day, and he's had a really long day.

He averages 6 hours of sleep a night. He was on call for three of these nights, although I don't remember him leaving in the middle of night for call, so a total of 42 hours was spent sleeping.

On the nights he did get home before 10:00 we had 2 hours after the kids went to bed that we were alone and could talk. A total of 8 hours that were just "us", but don't confuse that with time we really spent together. He is answering pages, sending texts to the junior residents, looking at images, preparing presentations, reading up on the cases he is going to do tomorrow. We probably had a total of 1 hour that we spent together doing nothing else but being together and talking, not multi-tasking.

10 hours with church and related meetings.

3 hours commuting (thankfully, we live close to the hospital)

2 hours at the gym (he could only go two days this past week).

85 hours physically in the hospital.

I don't know how he survives, or how he has survived this long. He is going on 5 years (I don't count his intern year) of this crazy schedule. Some weeks are better than others, some are worse. A normal day is 12 hours, and the long ones are usually 16-18. Now that we are moving closer to the time of year when the days are shorter, he will leave the house before the sun comes up and be home after it has gone down.

So how do we survive? I've already told you I eat cookies for dinner, that dirty secret is out. How he does it I will never know. I keep waiting for him to crash, but he never does. Little sleep, he's fine. Long hours, he's good. No time off, he's still kicking. He's superman. 

I'm glad he works hard. He needs to. I want him to be an excellent surgeon, not average. Excellent surgeons get excellent jobs. Hopefully, that excellent job will be in an excellent location. An excellent surgeon is happier than a bad one (I would assume). What's the point of doing all of this if you aren't going to be your best?

I had two ladies from church coming over Thursday night at 8:00 to visit me. I felt a little sinister for wanting my husband to be late particularly on that day so they would come and I would be all alone. Why? I think I do want some sympathy. If not sympathy, maybe I want people to realize that I have my hands full and to cut me some slack if I'm not everything they think I should be, whatever that is. I have noticed that most people who work other types of jobs just assume that there is "comp-time" for these late nights and weekends. Nope. Some weeks he will work all 7 days. I am sure they assume that if he is working on the weekends, he must have some days off during the week. Nope.  We aren't part of that world that boasts work/life balance. Sometimes it feels like we do live on a different planet. 

I am happy to do my part here at home, although there are many times when I haven't spoken to an adult in days and when I do I feel as though I've suffered a small stroke. I feel awkward and startled. The words in my head somehow aren't the same words that come out of my mouth. I'm forgetting things left and right and really wonder how I am functioning at all. Thank heavens I'm not the one doing brain surgery! Every time I leave the house I have to turn around and make sure I closed the garage door. My neighbors must think I am crazy. Yet, somehow we are all clean, dressed and fed. Tonight dinner was really pathetic: corn on the cob, Bing cherries, pancakes and brownies. Want to come over for dinner?

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19 comments:

  1. Wow. You are truly one remarkable woman. I am the wife of a colorectal and general surgeon who works seven days a week, but is home most days by around 8pm (after my two kids are asleep). So I do see him and get to eat dinner with him and vege with him for a few hours before we both pass out around 10-10:30ish. I have often felt so bitter and angry at him for not being home more often, notably realizing it is not his fault at all, but since my family does not live nearby and I can't vent to my two young kids (ages 3 and 9 months) he is the one receiving my bursts of anger...and I know he doesn't deserve it. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to this reality. It is helping me realize how unnecessarily hard I am on him for something he does not deserve at all. But it is nice to know there are many more wives out there, just like myself, who need to vent as well. Just knowing that makes me feel a little more sane. So thank you. :)

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  2. That schedule sounds all too familiar. My husband thankfully is out of training and in private practice but there are still night's he gets home after the kids are in bed (or just in time to kiss them goodnight).

    I have plenty of friends who have husbands who travel and they complain they feel like single parents sometimes. While I get that that's tough too, I would think it's easier. At least they know he won't be home.

    We always try to have dinner as a family, and it's usually just before I start cooking that I get the text that he won't be home in time.

    Judging from your doc's schedule, the 80 hour work week they mandated when mine was finished with training hasn't changed much.

    Found you via Your Doctor's Wife.

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  3. I was just cruising around, looking for other blogs about being married to a doctor. Reading your posts, everything I've seen so far seems very, very familiar. My husband and I got married a month before he started med school...four years there, five years of ENT residency (which is why the incredibly long surgeries sounded familiar, too), and now two years of private practice under our belts. Phew. Thanks for taking the time to share so many details of this unique life; I look forward to reading more. I hope that those of us who have been through this number of years with our husbands can be a blessing to those starting out!

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  4. It is such a blessing to read your stories..even if it's a little daunting staring down the barrel at all of it in "our" 3rd year of medical school! Thank you for posting this, it really is so helpful to know how to prepare myself for what lies ahead...

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  5. My husband is currently a CICU nurse and is considering going to med school. We need to make this decision together; and I want to know what it's going to cost (not money) our family if he does this. He's 29, we have a 1 year old and 2 year old and are planning on more. We've been married 8 years and are stable in our relationship. He pretty much has 12 years of school/residency ahead of him. It sounds like he may not get to see his kids very much. It sounds like he will rejoin his kids in their teens...not ideal huh? But he is bored as a nurse. I don't want him to be unhappy, but don't want him to miss out on life with the kids too much to get there. He already works 60+ hours a week, so we are somewhat used to not seeing each other much. I think I could do it as a wife, though it sounds rough! Is it all worth it? Should I support this decision or veto?

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    1. I just typed this great reply and lost it! Is it worth it. For us yes. I can't see him doing anything else. Knowing that he likes what he does and doesn't find his work oppressive or tedious, or mind-numbing makes a big difference in the overall happiness of our family. He doesn't complain about the hours as much as I do which tells me that it doesn't seem like work to him! Your kids are young, they will grow up knowing that their father works long hours and won't think much of it (eventually). There are thousands of families just like ours, and we aren't alone. As a nurse, your husband is probably more familiar with the demands of a physician than most people who are contemplating medical school. If he isn't fulfilled doing what he is currently doing and wants to do more medical school may be the right move. He is already used to working long hours and he has experience that will translate well to his classes. We have had wonderful life experiences through moving, changing climates and geography all because of medicine. The sacrifice of time, money, extended family has all worked together to make our little family closer. It has all been pretty amazing. And at the end of the day what would we have done with this time anyway? I am sure the right choice will be clear for you and your family. Good luck!

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  6. HELP: My husband LITERALLY just tole me TONIGHT that he has been thinking about and is planning to go to med school. I am 100% supportive, but I am TERRIFIED of what lies ahead. I am VERY needy when it comes to time with my man. I NEED him in my life and I'm scared of those lonely nights, the residency years. I've seen the movies, I've talked to a few friends, and I have heard "it's worth it", "just be strong", "just make sure to communicate"...... but how do you get THROUGH it? We have been married ONE year and we WERE planning on kids in another 2 years or more.... now we are looking at 8 years down the road. I'm just scared to death and don't know how to handle this huge change.

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    1. I am ashamed I didn't see this comment sooner. You have every right to be terrified. The plus side is that it probably won't be as bad as you imagine. Many of my worst fears never came true. I know that you think you are needy, but you might find that your "needs" are still met and that you are stronger and more durable that you think you are. If he wouldn't be happy doing anything else than medicine, then go for it. The worst thing I could imagine is spending the time and money and end up not liking what you are doing and sticking it out or changing gears again. That would be terrifying. Have him talk to some medical students, residents, and doctors to get a feel for what he might be passionate about and if he feels like he is up to the task.

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  7. this is such an awesome blog. i just got engaged to a pgy1 who started last month and holy shmoly am i going to favorite this site!!!!
    thanks for all the sage pieces of wisdom!

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  8. Thank you for stopping by and congratulations on your recent engagement!

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  9. I am wanting to go to med school, I LOVE watching and studying medicine. I am 16 and have picked out a solid plan.. I am a bit obsessive, but if I want to go to medical school, I have to be on top NOTHING else maters except myfuture. Being a teen can wait, future comes first NOT teen stuff

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  10. I have been with my fiance for almost five years. we got engaged in October 2012. He starts medical school in June this year. He is not sure yet what he wants to specialize in. I am so scared for our future. I have only just recently thought about what this life is truly going to bring us in the future. I feel that I have been so naive up until now. In my previous thoughts about our future it had never even crossed my mind that he will basically never be home. I am now trying to deal with the realization that this is happening. Him starting school and choosing his path is happening right now. Its tangible. I can see all of his previous work coming to this moment. Before now it has been almost as if it were a daydream now its reality. This reality scares me. I am so afraid that i will lose him to his career. I know this may sound selfish but I want to be the most important thing in his life. His being a Doctor will not allow this. I always thought i wanted a family with him. when I thought about the future I saw a "HOME" a child, a loving husband. I know now that I will have a house not a home and possibly a child who may never really get to know it's father. And if we don't have a child. I will be alone. And I mean really truly alone.

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    1. Slow down:-) What we think will happen is usually worse that what actually does. Remember, it doesn't happen all at once, and every day is different. My surgeon husband is one his way home right now (3:00 pm) and offered to pick up the kids from school. Some days are going to be harder than other, but not every single day is going to be awful. It is possible to have a home, children, and a husband who loves you who is a surgeon. Seeing as your fiance is just starting medical school he probably doesn't know exactly what he wants to do right now - and he doesn't need to decide for a while. During that time you will both grown. Maybe right now you don't think you could do "it", but in another year or two things will be different. Don't worry about something that might never be your reality, just take one day at a time and enjoy every minute you have together. Medicine isn't the only profession that takes up an insane amount of time. Military, truck driving, international consulting, partnership track attorney, entrepreneur, etc. When he starts medical school find a support group through your school, find other med school wives online, connect with people who are going through or have gone through what you are - it will make a world of difference. You won't ever be alone unless you shut all the possibilities out. Good Luck Brittany, love conquers all.

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  11. Brittany,
    Coming from a 3rd year med student wife...there is plenty of time he will be home. First year is hard, second a little harder, 3-4 easy breezy. My husband in on Surgery rotation now. Yesterday, home at 3:30p!! Today he is on-call from 5am to tomorrow about 8am,then off wed (sleep) and Ill see him wed after work all evening. Its really not so bad. He wants to be a ortho surgeon so I know Residency will be tough, but you will NOT be Alone. Stay positive and make it work, and it will.
    Doctor wife: Thank you for so much advice, and laughs... Why on earth, do we think we can buy a house for residency? Now I know how dumb I sound.

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    1. Good advice for Brittany:-) It good to be able to laugh at yourself, and I have given myself plenty of things to laugh about.

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  12. Oh did I mention my husband is already a Pharmacist, so even with all the busy times during 1st and 2nd year, he still found time to work at a hospital 4 days a month (every other weekend)to help pay our rent and we kept a regular date night (just us) once a week. It is possible and you can do it!!!

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  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your life with us. I am engaged to a neurosurgery resident (he's currently in his intern year); our wedding is scheduled for July 2014. I am trying to wrap my head around all of the demands as we want to start a family soon after marriage, and clearly his experiences as a resident are so different than mine as a doctoral student. The information you've shared, especially because it directly pertains to the extra demanding situation of a neurosurgery resident, is really appreciated.
    I am going to read up on your posts while your husband was a resident so I can begin the mental preparation for life as a resident's wife. I look forward to reading more about your experiences. Thanks again!

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  14. I feel like crying after reading your posts. Like many others have said, thank you...We are not alone! I have many friends that share these crazy and lonely lives. Non medical folks just don't understand.I think it's great u added up the hours your husband was home w the kids. I have done that in my head but stopped doing it because it made me so sad. As a result I try to be super mom...I feel it's owed to them. We have a lot of nights the kids cry for daddy (oldest is 6 and he's been crying probably since he was 15 myth old. It's so hard. I sometimes cry quietly on the pillow next to them. When daddy is home he is their everything. Other people have no clue the sacrifices that are made. I always tell my husband "heh with the Oscar's or some football game, why not recognize people like him giving up their lives for the rest of us?"

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  15. I can totally relate. It's not all McDreamy ;-)

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