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Navigating The Medical Marriage

Matt Davis | AMP News, Guest Blog Post Series, Healthcare Administrators, Physician Recruiting, Physicians, Uncategorized

Marriage takes work and is not always white picket fences and roses. Add a spouse who is going through medical school, a residency, possibly a fellowship and all that comes with being a physician and it can multiply the work it takes to have a successful marriage.

Today on the blog, we visit with Lara McElderry, the host of the “Married To Doctors” podcast and a life coach for physician families. Lara answers questions about being married to a doctor and how to navigate through difficult times.

Our Conversation with Lara

AMP: From a recruitment perspective, what do you hear from physicians in regard to a healthcare organization including their spouse in the interview process? More pointed, how involved do most spouses want to be?

Lara: Spouses’ experiences vary with regard to the recruitment process.  The spouse may be invited to a dinner, an interview, have a spa day set up on their behalf, or may not feel invited at all.  Those in recruiting can help by making it clear what events the partner is invited to attend. One common scenario is a realtor, or hospital employee, taking the spouse to lunch and a tour of the area.

As to how involved they want to be, I find spouses are very interested, as this is their life and move too!  Often they would like help connecting with other spouses of physicians in the area, job connections, and prospects.

Spouses can usually find the schools and grocery stores, but help connecting with people is more valuable and helps with loneliness once moved. 

AMP: From your personal experience, what piece of advice you would give to someone married to a physician? On the flip side of that, what is the advice you would give to the physician?

Lara: The biggest piece of advice I give to anyone married, is that marriage is a choice, so make a good one and then continue to choose your spouse throughout your relationship. 

For medical marriages, in particular, come to understand if your partner sees medicine as a job, as a career, or as a calling.

Depending on their specialty and commitment to medicine, your life will be affected.  Make sure you are okay sometimes not riding shot-gun. This doesn’t mean you are loved less, but it does mean you are not the only thing loved by your spouse. 

To the physicians, remember to give your spouse attention in small ways.  They know you can’t always be home or at every birthday party or special event.  But you can still be engaged.

Keep reminders on your phone, send text messages or GIFS.  Tell them you missed them, and be happy to see them when you come home. These little things go a long way. 

AMP: We know a person’s personal life can affect their ability to perform at work. How can healthcare organizations invest in the spouse and physician to help foster a healthy relationship?

Lara: The best way healthcare organizations can invest in relationships is with the schedule.  Big complaints I hear from spouses are that schedules aren’t solidified in advance, perceived unfair holiday distributions,  or lack of planning ahead.

How different it could be if a department asked for dates such as anniversaries and birthdays of the spouse?

Healthcare organizations can also take an interest in the spouse when interviewing, making sure the spouse feels like an individual with talents and interests and not just “the trailing spouse.” 

Another quick suggestion, don’t just talk about the hospital and cases. If you invite the spouses to be part of an activity, do an activity that isn’t just an extension of the hospital setting. 

AMP: In your experience, what is the number one reason for tension in the spouse/physician relationship and how can a couple work on avoiding it.

Lara: The tensions in medical relationships mirror those of other relationships however medicine can exacerbate these differences.  For example, many couples enjoy quality time, and it’s easy to see how during the residency years this is a challenge.

Many couples have disagreements about money.  For medical couples, this can be magnified by student loan debt or a spouse leaving a job for a residency match. 

AMP: What resources can you share with our readers that focus on being married to a doctor?

Lara: Here, you can find links to resources on communication.  You can also find links to books, money, sex, and other important topics for couples. 

Lara’s Bio

Lara McElderry is the creator and host of The Married to Doctors podcast.   The podcast began in December of 2017 and pushes away the stereotypical “doctor-wife” image.  It is a safe space for discussion on the unique challenges of being married to someone in medicine. 

The show has been recognized on various podcast charts including by Apple in the Top 50 for relationships, DataBird Top 100 podcasts, and in the top 25 Doctor Blogs to follow in 2018 and 2019. Lara has been published in various places, including Medscape, The Practice Link, and Kevin MD. 

Lara enjoys speaking and has been a guest with the Western States Alliance (Las Vegas, NV) The MU School of Medicine (Springfield, MO), The Kansas City University of Medicine (Joplin, MO ) the MA Medical Alliance Annual Meeting (Boston, MA), and the Advocates for the American Osteopathic Association (Baltimore, MD).  

Life Coaching grew out of requests for advice from Lara.  Her curriculum reaches into her Family Science background (MAT), her education with the Gottman method, and her love of positive psychology.  Practical down to earth tips come from Lara’s variety of life experiences including eighteen years of marriage and being a mom to five sons.