01 July 2014

Yr 3 Perspective of a Med School Wife: Shelli

I am so glad that Shelli was willing to share her perspective again this year. (You can read her first year perspective by clicking on this link.) Shelli is a wonderful mama, an amazing cook, and she has a wonderful voice as a writer. She is also the perfect support for her husband, Eldon, while he studies through medical school.

Q: What are your responsibilities this last year while your med student was on rotation?

A: What WEREN'T my responsibilities? :) No, Eldon did a lot, I'm just teasing. He went to work, studied like crazy wherever he was - hospital, clinic, home, whatever - and still managed to be a great daddy and even help me with the dishes whenever he was home to eat with us.

But I did a lot.

I cooked three meals most days, trying to avoid processed, refined foods. I washed laundry, and usually folded it. I cleaned the bathroom (note that we only had ONE bathroom), kitchen, floors, cars, every living space, and every single one of my kids' messes. I changed about a gazillion diapers, some from our infant and some from our toddler. I changed the sheets when what should have happened in a diaper happened in a bed. I handled paperwork. Insurance, healthcare, and everything else that could go wrong.

I took care of three darling little girls. Eldon would come home and be a daddy, playing and laughing with them, which I was delighted to see. I couldn't be their daddy. But I did pretty much everything else for them most of the time. Like 95% of the time. Eh, 98%.

I packed Eldon lunches, ironed his clothes, and just tried to be helpful. If there was anything I could take off his plate I tried to do it. I was happy to do it. Every minute he wasn't doing some kind of errand meant he could spend it with us.

But through all of these things and everything else I can't think of at the moment, I don't believe I did more for our family than he did. We're in this together and I think the workload is as even as it could possibly be.
Q: What did you do differently in year three to support your med student?

A: I think mostly I did the same things I usually did, but I got to see him way, way less often than before. That's what made it harder. I can do anything if he's there to hold me at the end of the day.

Q: What surprised you about clinical rotations?

A: I was surprised by how much Eldon actually got to DO. I thought he'd be in more of an observe and assist kind of role, but he did practically everything his preceptors did.

I was also surprised how much rotations changed what he thought he'd like to do. He was considering cardiology or radiology going into third year, but by the end he had fallen in love with surgery!

Q: How are you preparing for residencies?

A: We're preparing for residency in ways I hadn't anticipated. We decided to live with Eldon's parents in Mesa, because he would be gone so much (like working out of state, gone, not just working long hours, gone). Eldon wanted me to have a support team to help with our kids, and I wanted to save money and avoid paying double and triple rent when he was away.

We've been kind of picky about actual residency locations, because Eldon wanted to do as many surgical rotations as he could. So while he could find lots of other specialty rotations closer to home, he's going all over the country for surgery. As long as we settle for residency in a big city (two years in tiny, far-from-everything Lebanon almost killed me) I will be content.

*A note to those in the military: Eldon scheduled two military rotations - the maximum allowed - because we hope to do a military residency because the pay and the range of experiences are usually better. If we aren't matched to a military residency we are considering doing an intern year. That way, even though we lose a year that doesn't count toward fulfilling our commitment to the military, he will most likely get his pick for residency the following year. Those applicants with an intern year are generally considered first before those who came straight from graduation. We'll see how it goes.

Q: Any advice SOs beginning third year?

A:Find a project you can pour your heart into. It might be your job or your kids or whatever, but make sure you have something you enjoy putting lots of hours into. If your med student is gone all the time, and you're just sitting at home waiting for them you'll be miserable, or resentful, or both.

Also, Eldon kept a little journal of each of his rotations so he would remember details, especially about the way he was feeling during each one. When you look back at the end of the year and try to decide which specialty to pick you might be surprised how easily they blend together or how many critical details you forget. Eldon dismissed surgery initially, but when we looked at our notes and talked together we realized it was the happiest he ever was. No other rotation made him as excited to get out the door in the morning as surgery, and that wasn't something we would have realized just looking at the facts and statistics of each one.

Make a commitment to value your relationship more than any of the irritations or problems that come up. My goodness, there were times I wanted to run away and not stop until I reached Canada. There are so many things that might potentially drive you insane about this third year. In an effort to make me feel like Eldon and I actually lived in the same world, I would find things to celebrate. The ends of each rotation, getting high honors after a hard rotation, or even just silly things like National Pie Day. It seemed too easy to just put our heads down and just endure this year, finding little things to celebrate together helped us lift our eyes and see each other every now and then.

That all being said, we enjoyed third year more than any other year so far. Well, socially we preferred being close to our med school friends, but Eldon enjoyed rotations much much MUCH more than classes. That was exciting for both of us because we thought, "Oh good, this might actually be worth it in the end!" :)