14 July 2014

Yr 3 Perspective of a Med School Wife: Alyssa

Alyssa is a first time contributor to our little perspectives game, but the more the merrier I say. Everyone's family has unique circumstances, especially during third and fourth year of medical school. Each perspective helps me to see what I can do to better support my student and what I might expect in the future. Thank you for sharing, Alyssa!

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

A: We have 4 kids ranging in ages from nine year- old to a one year-old, so my day was pretty much just keeping up with them and all their activities -from soccer practices to guitar lessons, church activities, and homework. Their schedules kept me pretty busy. Then there is all the housework, laundry, planning and cooking meals etc. Because Zach was gone a lot, I am also in charge of financial aid for him, taxes, benefits, and insurance for our family.

Q: What did you do differently in year three to support your med student?

A: The same as the last two years, just let him tell me his schedule and what he has to do. To make it easier on myself I would tell myself he is not going to be able to make it to most things and if he is able to show up it's a bonus. That way he is able to study for shelf exams and keep up with the quizzes and coursework that goes with each rotation.

The BIG extra thing for me was I made cupcakes for each rotation site he was at to say THANK YOU to everyone who helped him. I made enough for his preceptors and office staff at each rotation. It was a way for the preceptors to remember him, and it helped grease the wheels when he asked them to write letters of recommendation. I usually made them in week 3 of the rotation.

Q: What surprised you about clinical rotations?

A: How much he was still gone. You think it's going to be better because EVERYONE says third year is better (which it is to a point) but they still have quizzes and assignments with every rotation.  Depending on the preceptor you get, there is a LOT of on-call weekends and nights. For us it was PEDS, OB and IM that were the rotations that he was gone the most. He also had to leave for two months to do two rotations on the coast (surgery and family medicine).

Then there is didactic week every 12 weeks where there are practical and written exams, so the students are of course cramming for those.

 The biggest change I saw for positive was actually in Zach. He was happier and not so beat down and mentally tired. They are finally actually practicing medicine in a clinical setting. They aren't sitting in a classroom for 8+ hours and then studying to all hours of the night on top of that. 

Q: How are you preparing for residencies?

A: I think our situation is a little bit different because we have 4 kids...and they are older. We have to think about their needs as well as what is best for Zach. Obviously we wanted Zach to have the best residency possible, but with also the best possible situation for our kids as well.

So we looked up all the DO OB/GYN rotations...Zach looked at the programs and what they offered as far as education and training. My job was to look at everything else. I looked at pay, vacation time, benefits, perks (malpractice insurance, paid CE, paid license fees etc), and cost of housing. Housing and pay were a big one. Some of the residencies sounded great...but it was in downtown Detroit and the pay wasn't that great. $42K a year with 4 kids would have us living in the ghetto...that's all we would be able to afford. So we tried to find the balance...where could we afford to live that was safe for our kids, but get Zach a great residency education.

Then Zach ranked them and stating in December started trying to set up auditions. Most don't open up until January, and with most if not all of his residency auditions you HAVE to be persistent and DOUBLE CHECK and DOUBLE confirm EVERYTHING! Often he talked to many different people, and one person would say he was ʺpenciled inʺ for a certain time period...Zach wouldn't get an email, so he would call next week and the department head would not know a thing about it.

Q: Any advice SOs beginning third year?

A: Don't expect a ton of one on one time with your student. They still have lots of work and their schedule depends entirely on their preceptor. Make some sort of treat for the preceptors and staff. It's very much appreciated, and it really helps them remember you. Zach is known as the cupcake guy. Everyone was very excited when they found out he was rotating through their office. :)