Dating as a Medical Student – Confessions of lessons learnt
A final year medical student weighs up the pros and cons of dating within and outside of medicine.
For better or for worse, over the last few years I have been (mostly) single and have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and dedication dating, when I could have spent more time hitting the books. So, if the goal of dating is to enter into a relationship, there is no doubt I have been completely and utterly unsuccessful. However, they say you learn from your failures more so than from your successes, and with that in mind, I can say I have learnt a few things; especially when it comes to dating inside and outside of medicine.
Before we begin, I do have some definitions which I’d like to get out of the way because I have found there are always conflicting opinions when discussing said definitions in conversation.
- Date: one occasion where two people who are romantically interested in one another spend quality time together.
- Dating: a point in time whereby three dates have transpired with two people who are romantically interested in one another, who both have the intention to keep on seeing one another romantically.
- Synonyms of dating: ‘seeing’, ‘courting’, ‘exchanging LinkedIn information’
- Relationship: after an undefined period of time, both parties agree for the third body, the relationship, to continue in whatever inclusive/exclusive shape and or form with (ideally) pre-discussed values and expectations established.
Dating Within Medicine
The first ‘pro’ that comes to mind when thinking of dating within medicine is that you have all these shared experiences. You know which tutors are the worst, or what antics your favourite doctors are getting up to. You can share your engaging ward stories, the stresses you had trying to get in your first cannula, those last OSCEs, and they will intrinsically understand the implications of every sentiment.
The same cannot be said for dating outside of medicine.
Sure, you can explain all the essentials as to why what you did or saw was cool, but it still won’t be the same (unless they also work in healthcare).
For example, while I was on my paediatric rotation last year, I encountered a patient who had cystic fibrosis (CF). I was dating someone who wasn’t from a medical background, so I went through what the condition was and why that moment was so momentous for me. I first learnt what CF was in the second year of my biomedical science degree, and the condition just kept on coming up again and again as the years went by. So meeting someone was a rare opportunity to understand the condition on a deeper level. With permission, I took out my stethoscope, and asked if I could have a listen to her lungs to see (well, hear) for any interesting signs.
My partner at the time thought it was cool and was very interested in the patient, but it was such a different conversation when I was talking about to my friends with whom I’d been studying for six years.
In the same vein, dating someone within medicine means they are much more likely to understand the stressors you are going through because they share them too. They know that when it comes to preparing for end of year exams, or going through a surgical rotation, or for any other reason that comes up, you will be very exhausted and may not be able to spend all your free time with them.
On another note, medicine is demanding - and like most people working in demanding environments and over long hours, it’s very common that schedules just don’t line up, even and especially within medicine.
We always have something on; whether that’s being on the wards, studying, revising for exams, practicing clinical skills, getting involved in extracurriculars, getting involved in teaching and receiving extra teaching. Schedule clashes get worse as you progress throughout the degree, and with internships and subsequent jobs as you climb the training ladder, you may have to move to different cities or towns, which means that making things work gets harder.
So as all things in life, dating as a medical student or junior doctor is challenging, regardless if you’re dating within or outside of medicine. But the thing I have learnt is to find a partner who is understanding, regardless of what they do.
And while starting to date and continuing to date can be quite wonderful, deciding to stop dating is often very difficult. With medicine being the tight-knit community that it is, and especially if you’re dating within a friendship group, breaking up a relationship can have major repercussions.
Dating Outside of Medicine
While the pros are quite nice, the flip sides of dating within medicine can also be complicated. For one thing, it seems difficult to escape from medicine. When you’re on placement, all you do is medicine. When you get home and study, you do more medicine. When you hang out with friends... well, that’s more med right there. When you see your partner one of the main things in common between the two of you is medicine, which ends up consuming a fair amount of quality time. At a certain point I find that I just want a break, or an escape from medicine. But it’s like gravity, you can try and escape all you want, but eventually it’s something you fall back into.
For the most part I find the pros and cons of dating outside of medicine to be the opposite of the pros and cons of dating within medicine. One thing is that you get a break from medicine, and following that line, if you’re a curious person like me, you get to learn more about the world of the person you’re dating.
Now I won’t say whether you should exclusively date within medicine or outside of medicine. It’s always going to be your choice as to where your priorities lie, and what you want from your partner (which hopefully this article may have helped with). Just make sure that when you do date someone, to always strive to be open in your communication, even if you think being open will lead to challenging conversations, and ideally find someone who is understanding.
And finally, In the spirit of St. Valentine, I hope that your journey in finding love is pure and sweet; and to leave you off, I shall say adieu with a humble word from the Bard:
‘For where thou art, there is the world itself, And where thou art not, desolation’
(Henry VI Part 2 – Act 3, Scene 2)
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