I’m sure anybody reading today’s post has heard every possible opinion about our healthcare system – what’s wrong with it and how to solve it. I’m sure there are things that you agree with and things that you don’t. Working in health insurance, I have a vested interest in what the government does with the country’s healthcare system. I doubled down on my interest by marrying a doctor.
I have a fellow blogger that is also a spouse to a doctor. Cat from Budget Blonde currently resides in Grenada where her husband enrolled in med school. Last week, Cat and I talked about our experiences of being spouses of doctors. We agreed that the amount of work we see our spouses go through and the personal sacrifices for the family are significant. Therefore, the one thing that makes us both cringe within the healthcare reform conversation is the assertion that physicians are paid too much money.
We decided to collaborate on a post illustrating why we feel that, for the work doctors put it, the compensation received after completing a residency is fair.
Cat from Budget Blonde
During year 1 of medical school, my husband went above and beyond in terms of work ethic. At that stage, you really don’t know what to expect, and you don’t know how exams will be. So, he just studied like crazy to cover all of his bases. During the entire first year of medical school he woke up at 5:30 AM and studied while eating breakfast and drinking his coffee. He studied until noon at which point he had lunch and headed into class. He had class from 1-5 and immediately went to the study hall to start studying after class was over. His friends thought he was nuts to study right after class, since most people’s brains turn to mush after 4 hours of sitting in lecture, but that’s what he felt he had to do in order to stay ahead.
At around 7:30 every night during that first year, I brought him dinner on campus. It was the only time I was able to have a real conversation with him. He came outside every night, and we sat on the steps in front of the study hall for about 30 minutes chatting and having dinner together. I went home and blogged, etc. and was in bed by 10:30. He usually came home at around 11:00 or 11:30p.m. and amazingly enough, woke up fresh and determined to do it again the next day. Weekends were his favorite part since he could study all day long without the interruption of class.
So, for the first year, all 9 months of it, I would estimate that he spent around 16 hours a day studying including lecture times. He took very few breaks. We went out to eat one time during those 9 months, and that was after his midterm exams to celebrate. To be honest, we barely spoke, and it was kind of like having a roommate and not a husband. People have accused me of exaggerating this schedule. I can promise you, I’m not. Had I not seen it with my own eyes and lived with someone who had that schedule, I wouldn’t have believed humans were actually capable of working that much.
So far, the second year of medical school has been a bit better in terms of his schedule. I noticed he had a lot more confidence after doing well his first year, and he allowed himself to take a few more breaks, often taking Friday nights off so we could have dinner with friends or see a movie. So, things are a lot better. I would estimate that he spends about 14 hours a day studying and going to class/lab so far during this second year. He now wakes up at 6:30 instead of 5:30, giving himself an hour more sleep and takes off a little earlier on Friday nights.
So far, we’ve taken out $216,000 in loans for the first two years of medical school, which includes the $65,000 he spent on his master’s degree in public health since he’s a dual degree student. It’s been a very difficult road for both of us, but I’m so unbelievably proud of him, and I know he’s going to make a great doctor.
Greg at Thriftgenuity
I met my wife during her fourth year of med school. Three months into dating, was her “match day”. When we first met, she was flying all over the country, interviewing with various programs, vying for a spot in their dermatology departments. There was a chance she could end up in San Diego, Iowa, Massachusetts, Florida, and others. Considering we had only dated three months, our relationship could have been over if the location didn’t work for me.
As luck would have it, she matched in Virginia, an area where I had many business contacts. Plus, she had an intern year in Philadelphia, which was not far from where I was living. That said, however, we had to prepare for a long distance relationship for that year, which is never easy. Add on the rigors of overnight calls, studying, and her getting ready for a move a year later, long distance was that much trickier.
It was only until we were engaged that I found out her true amount of debt. As I’ve indicated in other posts, it is a six-digit number that does not begin with one. I think what makes that even more frustrating is she actually got a full scholarship for her undergrad and still ended up with that much debt from med school. So, she was fiscally responsible, but still could not avoid such a burden.
She’s finished two of the three years for her residency and recently received an offer from a local practice. She still studies a few hours a night (not as bad as med school) and much more when it comes time for the annual exam that measures all residents’ progress within programs around the country. Of course, next year, she will also study a lot to pass her boards.
For us, this has meant new jobs for me and putting the rest of life on hold. We’re hoping to sneak a kid in at just the right time that she can study and take her boards comfortably but not long after joining her new practice. We weigh every financial option in relation to the loans that must be paid back.
Our situation is not uncommon for the doctor community. She has friends that got married and have never lived in the same town, others that delay starting a family, and even a few that do not match in the field they want and must come up with an alternative plan to meet their goal.
I’ve also been told that if she was in a field other than dermatology, both the pay and hours would not be as good. So, we are very lucky that she was able to get into such a competitive field, otherwise, the struggles (both time and finances) would be greater and go on longer. I must add, however, that despite the unknown circumstances of healthcare reform, she stuck to her guns and opted to join a practice that does little to no cosmetic procedures. To me, this shows a dedication to the patient and the community.
So those are our stories and why we implore you to rethink a doctor’s salary before making the assertion that they make too much money. I know that the people I have met in my wife’s offices are all very smart, work very hard, and are passionate about what they do. And, after all, if you believe that you get what you pay for, is there any place worse to cheap out than your healthcare?
What do you think? Are doctors overcompensated? Why or why not?