What it’s Like Dating a Doctor

My doctor!

My doctor!

I remember being at some random party in university, holding a beer and looking at the throngs of people around me who were drunk and stumbling.

I walked over to a table of women and eavesdropped on their conversation.

“I always study at the medicine library, but I still haven’t gotten lucky yet!”

“Oh yeah? Still trying to get a doctor?”

“I went on a few dates with some, but none of them seem serious about me.”

“You gotta get them while you can! Once they’re a full-fledged doctor, they will be harder to snag!”

My young, naïve self was aghast. Wasn’t love about intertwined souls, not the zeros in their paycheck? I couldn’t believe that these women went out of their way to study in the medicine library (the other end of campus) for the blind chance that, perhaps, a med student might take notice of them.

At the time, I never imagined I would someday date a doctor. Never.

And now, by dumb luck, here I am. Dating a resident.

So what’s it really like?

Everyone Thinks You’re Rich

money

“Oh man, bills are pretty tight this month,” I sighed as I looked at my online banking screen. “Dentist, Christmas presents, car payment… Not much wiggle room this month.”

“What are you so worried about?” my manager, overhearing my financial worries, replied with a snort. “You’re dating a doctor. You’re set.”

Oh, if only I had a dollar every time someone said this to me.

Residents only make a fraction of what real doctors make (about 20%) and almost all doctors have med school debt equal to the cost of a home in the United States. The average debt of a med school graduate is about 160,000 USD, which normally takes up to 30 years to pay off and consequentially amounts to around 400,000 USD of total debt with accrued interest added in.

Ouch.

While doctors start off with 6 figures right off the bat, they also have 6 figures of debt under their belt. Doctors may make more than your average Joe, but with the debt factored in it’s definitely not an easy or quick path to riches. Salaries for doctors are declining, with Richard telling me that some nurses now make more than the lowest paid medical specialty – pediatrics.

So no, dating a doctor does not equal abundant wealth.

You Still Have to Go to the Doctor

photo credit: Week #35/52 via photopin (license)

photo credit: Week #35/52 via photopin (license)

The nice part about dating a doctor is, well, always having a doctor around.

With healthcare being so dreadfully expensive in the United States, it’s great to have Richard nearby and give me the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in regard to whether I really need to go to the doctor’s office.

Many symptoms of pain and discomfort can only be diagnosed with tests at the hospital. He’ll often tell me to go to the hospital for an ultrasound, blood test, or some other procedure.

So even though I live with a doctor, I still have to go see a doctor.

Don’t get me started on trying to get a doctor to see the doctor. I’ve been nagging Richard to see a dermatologist about a rash (since he’s not specialized in this), but he stubbornly refuses to go. Meh.

You Need to Make Time to Date

Spending time with this guy is hard to come by!

Spending time with this guy is hard to come by!

Residents work an insane amount of hours. Before the cap in 2003, residents sometimes worked 136 hours per week. Now, they are limited to only 80 hours per week. With moonlighting included, Richard sometimes works up to 100 hours per week.

Basically, this means I never see him—and when I do, he’s half asleep.

On the bright side, it makes our time together more valuable. When we finally have a day off together, we’ll do something special like go on a short trip to a nearby town (San Diego!), hikes nearby (Pasadena!) and sometimes even splurge on long weekend getaways (like a cruise we’ll be going on together next week!).

When we actually have time together, we really want to make it count.

The Best Motivator

datedoctor

Dating a doctor is a huge motivator for me. I mean, seriously, it’s hard for me to complain about my job when Richard is working 100 hour work weeks and dealing with life-or-death emergencies. It helps put my small, first world problems into perspective.

Doctors are, for the most part, extremely responsible and determined. How else could you go through 8 years of schooling and 3 years of residency without losing your mind? On top of their day job, they also have to read volumes upon volumes of medical journals to keep up with their profession. They’re always striving to become more educated and thus, better doctors.

When I see Richard hard at work, it also inspires me to improve and challenge myself in my own way. He’s always encouraging me to go to the gym, to pursue my writing, to work on this blog, and to reach for my dreams.

Doctors are resolute. They are decisive. They are steadfast.

They make great mentors, with Richard being my #1 supporter.

Dating a Doctor is Tough… But It’s Worth It

datedoctor5

I’m definitely not dating Richard for the prestige or paycheck of a doctor.  In fact, when I first met him, I had no idea he was even a full fledged doctor.

But I believe, doctor or not, a relationship is all about supporting one another and making sacrifices.  I want to be by Richard’s side and support him through residency, because god knows it’s tiring, back-breaking work that is just plain shitty.  He often tells me how happy he is to return to a clean home, warm meal, and me in the doorway–and I think that makes residency all the more bearable for him.

If we truly love someone, we have to make sacrifices.  We have to show them we care.  We have to help them achieve their dreams… and that’s why I’m here.

And the best part about dating a doctor?

No one has a better response to “what happened at work today?” than a doctor.

Oh, the stories you’ll hear.

Do you know anyone working in medicine or in the healthcare field?  What is it like to become a doctor in your country?

18 thoughts on “What it’s Like Dating a Doctor

  1. Monica says:

    My mom works in the medical profession, and it was always hard when she was on call or had to work late, but she definitely works hard. My fiance also works int he medical field, and I have to keep my mind or hands busy while he’s away so I don’t get too lonely, but he is definitely respected for what he does and I think it’s an admirable profession. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • rubymary says:

      Oh your fiance works in the medicine field, too!? Yeah, I have A LOT of alone time. I feel for you. It’s hard to keep busy. I see that your knitting skills are ever growing, so I think you found quite a nice hobby to fill your time 😉

      Thanks for reading and for the lovely comment!

  2. Lani says:

    I follow a blogger who is a nurse and her stories are gut-wrenching. Throw in her beautiful writing and I’ve been in tears. So, I can only imagine the stories you hear! Great post, Mary!

    • rubymary says:

      Thanks Lani!! I actually found the nurse blog you’re speaking of through your blog, and she’s an excellent writer and she tells memorable and heart aching stories. I love her stuff (I should comment more on her blog, I’m such a lurker). I think doctors have a different perspective of death and loss, because they deal with it so much. That’s one reason I could never work as a nurse/doctor, I think I would become too emotionally attached and it would wear away at me. Yet another reason I respect doctors so much–their emotional strength.

  3. autumnashbough says:

    Nice post, Mary! Thanks for debunking the whole “rich doctor’ myth. I think the only rich ones are those who don’t deal with insurance. Like plastic surgeons.

    When she was a kid, Dr. Sis was all, “I’m going to be a doctor and have a red BMW!”

    The reality? She drove an old Dodge Neon during her cash-strapped residency and fellowship. Her husband recently — and finally — traded it in for a Prius. Over her protests: “What are you doing?! It still works!”

    Maybe it’s the fact that the money is less than expected. Or maybe when your profession has a 75% mortality rate, cars become a little less important.

    • rubymary says:

      Yes, thank you for your support Autumn! I’m sure Richard and I will be driving his wee little compact car for… ever. Haha, much like your sister’s beat up Dodge Neon (omg I used to drive one of those).

      While doctors in the USA make a lot of money, the time/money investment might not pan out to be all that profitable. Richard often laments that if he had taken a tech job, he would have been able to actually make a damn good salary for the last 8 years instead of going into debt with med school and making zero money.

      Props to your sister! I respect all doctors so much, they go through hell to be where they are (and put up with so much stuff at their work too!).

      • autumnashbough says:

        My sister used to lament that if she had taken a job with a pension, she’d be able to retire. But that’s silly. She will never retire. The woman gets fidgety after three days on vacation.

  4. Marta says:

    I don’t know anyone working in the medical industry but I wanted to say that I liked your post, Mary. I don’t think I could be a doctor because I need to feel I have a life apart from work (even if that life is only reading, watching series and wasting time on the internet…). But, on the other hand, maybe being a doctor is so fulfilling that they can cope better with the lack of other activities? Anyway, you got yourself a treasure! 😉

    • rubymary says:

      Thank you so much Marta, you’re so sweet!

      I hear you, I need my down time to decompress and watch stuff on the Internet, haha. I don’t even work half as much as a doctor and I already feel pooped.

      I think being a doctor is extremely rewarding, but Richard says a lot of doctors burn out fast and they retire early… and I don’t blame them!

      I do have a treasure… and so do you 😉 I just can’t wait until my treasure finishes up residency….

  5. yueni says:

    Back in the day, before I did the whole language thing, I worked in banking. I’ve seen doctor’s tax returns. I know what they really make, and what they really spend. It was totally eye-opening.

    Plus I just quit my medical interpreting job last month. I am so happy to not be working in the medical field any more. Props to people who do!

    • rubymary says:

      Damn Yueni, what HAVEN’T you done! You were a banker too!? I’m so impressed with you!

      Are you still working in interpreting or are you doing something totally different? Wow, I bet medical interpreting was tough… Richard said nowadays they mostly use a phone service for interpreting. I bet it’s hard interpreting for Chinese people, since they have such crazy regional accents.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • yueni says:

        Yep, I was an analyst in a bank for 3 years after college. Totally hated it too! I hated it so much, in fact, that I ran off to China!

        Honestly, the bulk of what I did was pretty routine and uninteresting. Since I interpreted remotely via video, I got most of the routine cases: pregnant women, new mothers, annual exams for children and the elderly, and so on. I can interpret those kinds of check ups in my sleep. About 10-20% of the time I would get super interesting cases, genetic counselling, cancer diagnoses, etc. Those were difficult both in terms of terminology and in understanding what was going on medically. The toughest (and rarest, thank god) ones though, were the ones where you’re telling the patient and/or the family that they should get their affairs in order…

        While the regional accents are difficult (I once had to interpret for this elderly couple speaking in Hangzhou dialect =___=), the worst ones are medicine names! There are so many names in both English and Chinese. And then you know how China has those ones that are like a mix of TCM and Western medicine? And Chinese people don’t even know the names of the pills at all. I feel like Americans talk pretty freely about azithromycin or prednisone, but Chinese people talk about “the small white pill”, and “the long pink pill”…

      • yueni says:

        …and I never answered your question.

        I won’t be doing interpreting in my new job, though one of the reasons I was hired was because of my language skills. =) I’ll be doing localization for an IT firm.

        • rubymary says:

          Woooo!!! That’s great!!! Congratulations! I would be very excited to move to Shenzhen 🙂

          I noticed that in Asia they care much more about language skills than here. I keep getting job offers from China and Japan while I truly struggle to find work here in the states. It’s really frustrating.

          Can’t wait to hear your new stories from China!

  6. Kristin Hart says:

    Hey RubyMary! I came across your blog on a google search and I really enjoyed what you wrote. I currently just started dating someone who is not only in the military, but a doctor. We are doing long distance at the moment and I was wondering if you have any advice? His specality is emergency medicine so I know that is extreamley competitive. It’s just hard when I feel like I get no time to talk to him or two text messages in two days. What advice do you have for a newbie? thank you! 🙂

    • rubymary says:

      Aw, glad I can help!

      What my boyfriend and I used to do when we were long distance is write really, crazy long emails to each other (almost as long as my blog posts). I would find it therapeutic to type out all of my feelings and at the same time he would get an update. Luckily he also wrote back really long emails and it helped us stay in touch (we were doing overseas long distance–so that helped a lot). There’s something about writing a long, long, long email compared to messaging–feels a little more thorough and heartfelt.

      I think patience and understanding is also important. I used to get really lonely when my boyfriend had to do ‘night float’ and would be gone for sometimes 2 weeks at a time (and we lived together!), but I knew that he was literally working to the brink and that I had to be strong for him. We would still text and message each other in between (very important), but when I got lonely I just thought about all of the crazy stressful stuff he’s going through. It’s not easy dating a doctor (that’s why there are so many on tinder from what I hear, haha), but I think if you can endure through med school and residency, it’s an instant sign to him that you’re a definite keeper.

Leave a Reply