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Care and Keeping of Your Medical Student (for non-med folks)

Congratulations! You are the significant other of a rare and elusive species known as the Medicalstudentica americanus. Now, because we know that dating a medical student isn’t easy, here are some relationship suggestions from a medical student:

  1. Do not make us feel guilty for having to study. Ever. If we have to stay up late studying for an exam, or if we can’t go to a party with you, don’t give us a hard time. Trust me, we spend a totally healthy amount of brainpower being super bummed out that we can’t have a normal life —and I promise, we still love you.
  2. In fact, you should encourage us to study. If we are slacking off, see what’s up. Maybe sit with us and read your own book or look at really important arguments on reddit while we study. Med school can be very isolating, and it gets downright depressing quite frequently. Be our biggest cheerleader —we will appreciate the nudge.
  3. Be genuinely interested in what we are learning. Get us to explain things to you; I get really excited when my fiancé asks me about prions or how cancer works.. Ask us about our classes specifically (‘How was micro? Was the fun/boring lecturer back?’ vs ‘How was your day?’). If there is a subject you’re curious about and we are watching a lecture on it, join us.
  4. Listen to us. There will be gross things, like pinworms and diarrhea. There will be sad things, like child abuse, autopsies and telling people they have cancer. Your med student probably needs to talk about these things with someone. Toughen up your stomach and be there. We really need you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to tell us when we use the “med student card” for evil. A big trap med students (myself included) fall into is thinking that our time is more important than anyone else’s, and because our schedule is so intense we should get to dictate everything. For example you may be accustomed to hearing something along the lines of, “OMG I have a free night Thursday so we have to hang out, you must disregard all plans you may have made before this revelation.” NOPE, thank you for playing, please go back to start and try again. That’s not how it works; a relationship is a two way street, and both parties have to give for it to be successful.
  6. We love surprises. Especially caffeinated ones. Or food.
  7. Talk about non-sciencey things. Tell us about the minutiae of your day that had nothing to do with microscopic differentiation of white blood cell disorders that all look the same. Tell us about the weird stuff you see on the internet. It’s so easy to get sucked into the alternate reality that is medical school that we forget about the outside world. Keep us grounded.
  8. Have your own hobbies, friends and activities. We cannot be your whole life and entertainment. We can’t hang out all the time, or even most of the time. You’ve got to have your own interests.
  9. Trust us. Provided your med student is trustworthy (unfortunately, the untrustworthy lot definitely exist, and if you have one of those get out while you still can), be mature enough to have confidence in our love for you; fewer things are more unattractive than insecurity.
  10. Communicate with us if there is a problem. We can’t read your mind. The science just isn’t there yet, sorry. If you’re struggling with something, talk it out with usmaybe we’re having the same issue!

Relationships are never easy, and being in one with a medical student can be very difficult. But, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it has to completely impossible. Hang in there; you are a team and you can do it!

Lindsay Smith Lindsay Smith (3 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

University of Louisville School of Medicine

Lindsay Smith is a Class of 2016 medical student and an aspiring cat lady. Before medical school, she majored in photography. Her present interests include but are not limited to: pizza, Lord of the Rings references, bad puns, tattoos and sharks. She enjoys finding the humor inherent in the life of a medical student and the process of becoming a physician.