How Medical Residency Affects Your Personal Relationships

How Medical Residency Affects Your Personal Relationships

Sep 11, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

Becoming a resident is a different phase in your life. It allows you to increase your expertise and level-up in your career. However, having a different role, a pile of expectations, and a huge responsibility on your back could really be difficult. What could even be more challenging is that your profession causes a strain to your personal relationships.

The Effects of Residency to Your Personal Relationships

Ever since you became a doctor, you spend most of your time studying or working so you miss a lot of birthdays, family gatherings, and night-out with friends. You might not even have the time to call your family and friends much more to see them in person because you are always on call. By the time you get home, your family members are already asleep. When they wake up, you were already off to work. As your professional identity became more ingrained, you have less time for family, friends, and significant other.

Perhaps you don’t have time to contribute to doing household chores anymore. What’s worse is that you can take care of other people, but you are too busy to look after your parents, siblings, and most importantly, your children. Finding time to spend with your family and keeping up with your favorite hobbies may not be doable now.

Being a good doctor and good friend seems to be impossible. Activities with friends requires a lot of time and energy and by the time you get off work, you are already tired and sleepy.

Your relationship with your significant other can also be greatly affected. Married or not, couples need time for each other to make their relationship grow. You are lucky if both of you are doctors so that you can understand each other.

It is difficult to maintain your relationships with those you love especially if you are not there for them. Others may even think that you are no longer interested in them because they don’t understand how much your responsibility is when you are in the medical profession. Changes on your personal relationships have also an immense effect on your over-all wellness. A poor work-life balance that results in relationship problems can cause a deterioration in your health and well-being that can manifest as anger, anxiety, fear, frustration, guilt, regret, or even depression. Eventuality, problems in your personal relationship can lead to burnout which will affect even your work.

Factors to Consider

Evolving Professional Identity

Personal relationships are important but being a doctor is more of a priority to you now. You and those close to you were also forced to modify your relationship not only because you are busy, but because of your new title and roles as well. There is now a hierarchy in your relationship.

The expectations thrown at you because of your profession requires you to act in a specific way that is fitting to you. People in your life are also forced to adapt to these changes. They need to compromise and continuously be understanding if they want to be with you.

Poor Work–Life Balance

You have a responsibility to do your job, so your personal life has to take the back seat during work hours. There are days in a week where you have to be at the hospital longer because of work-scheduling demands such as shift schedules, call nights, and rotations. Sometimes, you have to go straight home so that you can finish studying and researching for conferences and seminars.

Coping with Issues on Your Personal Relationships

The perceived neglect and forced adaptation that eroded relationships was concerning to all participants, given the potential long-term ramifications. Participants applied coping mechanisms (e.g., adjusting social plans and work schedules, compromise, use of technology) to manage the conflict arising from the adaptation and to protect their relationships.

Explain What is Going On

You might have thought that your family and friends will easily adjust to these changes because they have somehow anticipated them. Maybe they already got used to it starting from medical school. Despite these, people also have needs. They need you to be there and make them feel important. It is difficult to explain to them what you are going through especially if they have a different profession, but you must continuously try. If you are truly important to them, they will eventually understand and accept that you could not be there all the time.

On the researchers and educators’ point of view, they are gaining a deeper understanding of how personal relationships change during residency so they begin to develop interventions to enhance residents’ relationships as a way to protect against the potential negative effects of training on health and wellness.

Time Management

Structure your life in a way that you have time for everything. For instance, you can meet up with friends and family during your lunchbreak. Maybe you could schedule to have dinner with them at least two to three times a month when it is most convenient to all of you. Make sure that you prioritize your meetups so that nobody will be neglected. Determine which relationships are most important to you and start from there. Planning and organizing your activities can help you feel less stressed since you have allotted time to all important events in your life. Even if you cannot accommodate your loved ones all of the time, they will surely appreciate your effort for keeping in touch.

On a regular busy day, you can use the remaining time of the day to talk to them on the phone or send them a message before you rest. Saying hi even if not in person can make your family and friends feel that you value your relationships.

Oftentimes, there is nothing much you can do with your work schedule but with the very little free time that you have, time management can be very helpful.

Be with Someone on Your Level

One way to lessen the troubles you experience with personal relationships is to be with people who you can share the same professional identity and experiences with. Relationships with like-minded individuals can help you justify or make sense of the negative feelings you are experiencing. Being both in medicine and being really busy will help you have a mutual understanding of each other. Actively seeking out social comparison is a form of affirmation that is important for many doctors. It gives the comforting message that “You are not alone”:

It is true that you voluntary signed up to be a doctor so you do not have the right to complain about how much of your personal life you need to sacrifice to do your job. However, maintaining personal obligations and relationships, while not compromising one’s professional identity, is also very important. You cannot be an effective doctor if your personal feelings are bothering you. Besides, you need your loved ones’ support and motivation to be the best doctor that you can be.