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
“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.
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
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
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
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
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?