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What is the divorce rate for doctors?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical Allopathic [ MD ]' started by Drako, Nov 13, 2001.

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  1. Drako

    Drako Senior Member

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    I was reading the thread titled "What do you think you will like least about being a physician?" and this question poped into my head: What is the divorce rate for physician couples (ie. hubby and wife are both docs)? And is there any statistical analysis of which spousal profession is suited for a physician? I guess it's questions with an "s."
  2. EMDrMoe

    EMDrMoe Senior Member

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    That's a great question, Drako. From personal experience (and the desire for it to be true!), physicians and med students I've talked to and know have a higher break-up/divorce rate when the spouse was not in a medical profession. Also, the physician couples we know show no signs of stoppin'. Each person understands the other's demands. I think physician divorces are prevalent because the spouse doesn't understand what the med student/resident/doc is going through. My husband an I hope to start together at MCO next fall, and that's the biggest reason for us going together.

    I hope you come across some stats, though, I'd be interested to see them!
  3. cardiosurg

    cardiosurg Senior Member

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    The ortho surg doctor that I worked with said that literally 60% of married couples while in his med school divorced. Another one told me that about half of his class divorced before the 3 yr. I can speak from experience. My ex-husbsand (who is a pharmacist) divorced me b/c he could not handle the hours when i was in pre-med!
  4. commymommy

    commymommy *reformed commymommy*

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    Well, it depends on whose stats you want to believe....if you consider the national divorce rate is hovering at about 50% you can conclude that the medical family is at least at an equal risk...There is a med marriage book out by the Sotile's that claims a divorce rate of 20% (at least among the respondents to their poll in the AMA Alliance) which I find a bit tough to swallow!

    I would disagree a bit that divorces occur in couples where both aren't medical (I've read that two physician couples have the most difficult time, actually!). What I think contributes to the disintegration of a medical marriage (and really marriages in other fields with similar demanding schedules) is the reduction in couple time spent during training when the physician has an arduous schedule...try as you might, it's hard to keep the flames of love a burnin' when there is either no one laying next to you in that bed, or he(she) comes home from a long day and sinks into the bed and begins to...snore! During internship year, my dh had5 months of q3 and5 months of q4...this translates into work all night and all day the next day...come home exhausted and go right to bed. Work until 7 or 8 pm the next day..come home tired, watch Seinfeld and go to bed...take call the next day! It was very hard to cope with his absence and emotional inavailability for months on end....That doesn't mean that I didn't try and understand what he was going through..but I found the "system" to be very physician oriented...all of the retreats were for physicians, at parties, the new docs were always introduced and asked to tell about themselves, and the spouses were like little third wheels at times.

    Also, relocation is an issue. Many couples will relocate for med school, residency, possibly fellowship, and then the job...this means for the spouse leaving family and friends and an established support network to start over. Add to this that your spouse starts working 80 or 100 hours a week and is on 3 out of 4 weekends to round...and you can imagine that for the spouse it isn't about not understanding...it can be about feeling isolated and depressed. The physicians walk into a readily established "support" network...they begin working and are introduced to nursed and colleagues with whom they may spend time chatting in the cafeteria or on down-time. In addition, they will likely be thrown a bone occasionally from an attending for a job well done...many spouses are SAHM's who care for the daily demands of raising children...and trust me...no one is throwing any bones..... ;)

    Add to this the significant debt and low salaries in residency/fellowship and the additional financial strain of having one person not working....


    I think another significant point is that many families starting out in the medical field are also at the age where they are beginning their families. Statistically speaking, these years are among the most difficult for most families (medical or non-medical). Childrearing demands a lot of time and energy and the non-medical person will bear the responsibility as if they were a single parent. That can be overwhelming.

    That being said...survival is possible, and many, many couples make it through even stronger than before....but it takes work and commitment from both spouses ;) I think it is important to understand some of the challenges before starting residency and to work out some of the major issues and how you hope to cope before you are in the thick of things...define the expectations and practice good communication skills...

    Kris :p
  5. commymommy

    commymommy *reformed commymommy*

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    An interesting article....unfortunately, the population studied to get the "divorce rate" was mainly composed of men who first married in the 40's and 50's...and divorce was simply not as common then as it is now....the role of women was different and the dynamics of marriage have changed since then.....I wonder what the average divorce rate was for non-docs back then.....

    Physicians' Divorce Risk May Be Linked To Specialty Choice

    Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

    March 13, 1997


    A Johns Hopkins study finds that physicians in some specialties -- chiefly psychiatry and surgery -- are at higher risk for divorce than their medical brethren in other fields. But the results do not support the common view that job-related anxiety and depression are linked to marital breakup.

    Alerting medical students to the risks of divorce in some specialties may influence their career choices and strengthen their marriages whatever field they choose, says Michael J. Klag, M.D., senior author and an associate professor of medicine.


    "Marital counseling during residency training appears to be a good idea for family and career satisfaction in the long term," Klag says. The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, is published in the March 13 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.


    Results also strongly suggest that the high divorce risk in some specialties may result from the inherent demands of the job as well as the emotional experiences of physicians who enter those fields.
    . The Hopkins team assessed the specialty choices, marriage histories, psychological characteristics, and other career and personal factors of 1,118 physicians who graduated from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1948 through 1964.


    Over 30 years of follow-up, the divorce rate was 51 percent for psychiatrists, 33 percent for surgeons, 24 percent for internists, 22 percent for pediatricians and pathologists, and 31 percent for other specialties. The overall divorce rate was 29 percent after three decades of follow-up and 32 percent after nearly four decades of follow-up.


    Physicians who married before medical school graduation had a higher divorce rate than those who waited until after graduation (33 percent versus 23 percent). The year of first marriage was linked with divorce rates: 11 percent for marriages before 1953, 17 percent for those from 1953 to 1957, 24 percent for those from 1958 to 1962 and 21 percent for those after 1962. Those who had a parent die before medical school graduation had a lower divorce rate.

    Female physicians had a higher divorce rate (37 percent) than their male colleagues (28 percent). Physicians who were members of an academic honor society in medical school had a lower divorce rate, although there was no difference in divorce rates according to class rank. Religious affiliation, being an only child, having a parent who was a physician and having a divorced parent were not associated with divorce rates.


    Physicians who reported themselves to be less emotionally close to their parents and who expressed more anger under stress also had a significantly higher divorce rate, but anxiety and depression levels were not associated with divorce rate.


    "Healthy marriages have deep affection, compatibility, expressiveness and conflict resolution, so the higher risk of divorce in those less emotionally close to their parents could be telling," says Klag. "Feeling distant from your parents may indicate a decreased ability to form an intimate relationship with your spouse. Also, marriage after medical school may allow the relationship to develop in a less stressful environment."


    Researchers cautioned that the study, which looked at marital histories through 1987, did not address quality of marriage and that physicians may be more likely to stay in poor marriages for financial and social reasons. Also, most physicians in the study were white males first married in the 1940s and 1950s when divorce was less socially acceptable, so the risks may vary for contemporary physicians, who include more women and minorities, say researchers.


    Future studies should examine the quality of marriage, physicians' and spouses' views of their relationship, society's changing expectations of marriage, more women and minority physicians, and the effect of medical school debt and other stresses on divorce risks, the researchers say.


    Co-authors of the study, which was part of the Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, an ongoing, prospective study of physicians from the Hopkins medical school graduating classes of 1948 through 1964, were lead author Bruce L. Rollman, M.D., Lucy A. Mead, Sc.M., and Nae-Yuh Wang, M.S.

    --JHMI--
  6. Derby

    Derby Member

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    this is possibly the single most interesting and useful thread on this board. all I hear about when I interview is married med students. i hope they don't become a statistic.
  7. Drako

    Drako Senior Member

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    All of my readings have lead me to become skeptical of marriages between physicians. I remain a skeptic because I have seen cases where great marriages could be built by couples who are both physicians. Given the demanding nature of the healing art, I would reason that if both partners are doctors, the family and children might suffer because both parents must devote a large amount of their energy toward the caring of the sick. However, I contradict myself in thoughts when I realize that if both partners are devoted to the family and their children, then there is no longer any reason to worry about the well-being of the family as a unit. Devotion is a manifestation of love and if there is true love, people will find a way.

    The reason why I ask if there is a profession for a spouse that is suited to the lifestyle of a physcian is because I have listened to a lot of doctors and nurses advising me to look forward to choosing a mate among the nursing workforce. Their reasons have been that a nurse does not have the same responsibility as a physician and therefore, would be able to devote more time to the family and the children. Moreover, a nurse would be able to understand and sympathize with her physician partner when the going get tough.

    Thank you everyone for your insightful responses.
  8. Yogi Bear

    Yogi Bear 2K Member

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    >Moreover, a nurse would be able to understand >and sympathize with her physician partner when >the going get tough.

    This is w/ the assumption that the guy's the doc and the girl's the nurse. However, would the reversal of roles still work well? i.e a female doc and her nurse husband.
  9. commymommy

    commymommy *reformed commymommy*

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  10. nochaser

    nochaser Senior Member

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    I have issues with this because my husband has been propositioned at least once everywhere we have lived by a nurse who offers a "no strings attached" affair....

    The fact that you know this says a lot about the strength of your marriage, honesty, committment, definitely ingredients needed to carry the marriage over the long haul.
  11. cardiosurg

    cardiosurg Senior Member

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    As I said before, my ex-husband was in the medical field and was VERY unsupportive of me. My boyfriend now, who is in the air force, is VERY supportive of me (anything less than an A and he says we can not do anything that night and he calls my material out to me!).So many times,I have come home and he is cleaning and cooking!
    My experience has been this: If both partners want to be in the medical field, they should be in equal rank (a doc and a doc, a nurse and and a nurse). When one is in a different position, problems can arise within the marriage dealing with authority? I will be the 1st to admit that this is silly b/c this is not what a marriage should be about. Why is it that women docs have a higher divorce rate? Is it the male-chauvinist thing (yes, I realized that not all guys feel that way)? Or, does it have to deal with authority. For instance, my ex was a pharmacist (who hated his job) but did not succeed in getting into PT school?
  12. EMDrMoe

    EMDrMoe Senior Member

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    different strokes, I didn't mean to imply that physicians were the only profession that have long hours. I'm very sorry if that's the way it sounded! It was just the topic of the post, so I ran with it.

    cardiosurg, I agree a lot with the doc & doc thing. I think, though, that more than rank (as with your ex) that happiness and satisfaction matter. If your husband has the job that you would love to have, it doesn't bode well for the marriage, I don't think.

    It is definitely the truth that both spouses have to be willing to work, but I don't think that is a quality reserved for physician marriages! :)
  13. Yogi Bear

    Yogi Bear 2K Member

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    Here's an interesting feminist essay I recently read that was written in 1971.

    "I want a wife".

    <a href="http://www.cwluherstory.com/CWLUArchive/wantawife.html" target="_blank">http://www.cwluherstory.com/CWLUArchive/wantawife.html</a>

    What's your take on the stereotypes of women in marriages?
  14. ckent

    ckent Removed

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    I don't believe that the Hopkins article is applicable to doctors in general today because the study is not current. The data they used was retrospective and included doctors from an earlier generation when divorce was much more frowned upon, and they only looked at Hopkins graduates. The actual divorce rate for physicians is 60%, according to Iserson's Getting into Residency.
  15. JAMMAN

    JAMMAN Chief Exceutive Officer

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    The 60% divorce rate seems to be pretty accurate. I know alot of doctors who are divorced.
  16. Blue Scrub

    Blue Scrub The Gift & The Curse

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    i recently read an article that the trend among younger docs is that they may have more a sense of family and wish to have a more well-rounded life than some of the older docs.....younger docs are taking a liking more to specific specialties that have better hours, are lucrative, and allow them to spend more time with their families and/or do things they like to do on their own time.....hence, the R.O.A.D. to happiness (radiology, opthalmology(sp?), anesthesiology, derm)....I think Emergency Med also offers pretty good hours as well.......im not sure how this affects the divorce rate among docs today but im sure it has some kind of effect
  17. fun8stuff

    fun8stuff *hiding from patients*

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    I was just going to cite this article... heh... it may be outdated, but i think some of the reasoning found in the article is still applicable.

  18. tigress

    tigress queen of the jungle

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    I just know it's going to be really hard to have a 2-doctor family, and it's frightening, but I know my husband and I will manage, because we are dedicated to each other above all else. It's a scary prospect, though.

    As far as husband and wife having approximately the same "rank" in career, I always felt the same way. But my current PI is MD/PhD and her husband is a paralegal, and I was surprised when I found that out, but they're happy so who cares what their respective jobs are, right? I think there's no formula for it. Love and marriage are a very mysterious thing, and I really don't believe the rights and wrongs can be quantified, or the rules can be figured out. What I do think is that it takes dedication on the part of both partners, as well as love and understanding.
  19. JAMMAN

    JAMMAN Chief Exceutive Officer

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    Just don't forget about the children!
  20. tigress

    tigress queen of the jungle

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    Yes, I should have said "we are dedicated to our family above all else." That's true. Hopefully our children will turn out okay :p
  21. watsupdoc15

    watsupdoc15 schmidty

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    I agree with that, I can speak from experience (about those in the field together have a high rate of breakup/divorce). My ex was going into her 3rd year of med school and I was going into my 3rd year of premed and she got all bitchy (excuse the explitive) during her sugery rotation and we broke up...on the other side my uncle who is a surgeon and his wife, a physical therapist, have been together since his first or second year of undergrad...well said Kris
  22. TexPre-Med

    TexPre-Med Removed

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    For those of who have the book, when you say "60% of doctors are divorced" could you please specify. Does this mean 60% of all doctors are divorced or 60% of marriages end in divorce? I say this because there could be some people that are screwing with the statistics. I have two stories. One doctor I know has been divorced 6 times all with different women. However I know another doctor that has divorced the same wife 11 times. Instead of working out problems, they just get divorced, make up, get remarried, and have another honeymoon as a vacation.
  23. ShyRem

    ShyRem I need more coffee. Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Isn't the normal divorce rate these days at LEAST 50-60%? I remember hearing 3 out of 4 marriages end in divorce these days... so perhaps the marriage survival rate of physicians isn't that low after all.
  24. burton117

    burton117 The Big Kahuna

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  25. burton117

    burton117 The Big Kahuna

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    Physicians' Divorce Rate Linked to Specialty

    "The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 21, 1997 page A19, reported on an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, March 13, addressing divorce rates and medical specialty.

    It stated that "the specialties doctors choose greatly influence their success or failure in marriage." In an odd twist of fate, those we would commonly turn to for assistance in a divorce situation, a psychiatrist, experienced the highest divorce rate in medicine at 51%. For others, the casualty toll was somewhat less severe: 33% surgeons, 24% internists, 22% for both pediatricians and pathologists."


    If anybody has access to the New England Journal of Medicine (either online or this specific issue), they can look at this article.
  26. monstermatch

    monstermatch Senior Member

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    From what I've observed, the people who have it hardest are women med students who's husband isn't in a medical field. seems like all married women in my class got divorced.
  27. KAR

    KAR Invincibility

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    I shadowed an ENT who told me that every single one of his married fellow residents divorced during his residency. He counseled me to stay single for as long as I could.
  28. motherof4

    motherof4

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    As a mother of four, wife to a serious blogger/forums addict and a SAHM, this information is right on! I wish my serious blogger/forums addicted husband had shown me this post when he started blogging in 2001 when our third child was in my womb. Perhaps marriage counseling from the beginning would have made a difference.

    Mrs. Panda Bear
  29. sarahl86

    sarahl86

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  30. genswim24

    genswim24

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    Are you seriously Mrs. Panda Bear? If so, that is awesome that you are on SDN. I love your husbands stuff, and kudo's to you guys for sticking it out through the tough road that is medical training.
  31. starfishprime

    starfishprime

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    I was under the impression that that is not the case.
  32. genswim24

    genswim24

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  33. Bacchus

    Bacchus PGY Too-many-expectations Moderator

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    You completely missed the point of her post, imo. She seems pissed, upset, frustrated. The last thing she probably wants is a go-get'um attitude.
  34. genswim24

    genswim24

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    No, I got the point of her post. I understand that this can be an extremely frustrating and upsetting process that sucks the life out of many doctors and their families. A lot of people would have just given up in their position, and I think it's commendable that they are at least trying to work their way through it instead of taking the easy road out. If the tone of my post offended her, than I apologize, that was never my intention.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2009
  35. If you never get married then you can never get divorced. All jokes aside, isn't the national divorce rate something like 50% anyways?
  36. usermike8500

    usermike8500

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    I know of plenty physician-physician couples who ended up divorced. It seems so unlikely; both the wife and the husband have the same job-related stresses, so they should understand each other right? Also, they would earn similar salaries so there's no temptation to divorce as a means to legally steal money. Who knows.
  37. motherof4

    motherof4

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    Would you be so kind as to indicate where you got this impression?

    Mrs Panda Bear
  38. motherof4

    motherof4

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    Understanding stress as a marital skill pales in comparison to conflict resolution. Resolving a conflict with a spouse who can't cope with any constructive criticism from his wife is impossible. He has the $$$ medical degree where I have been a stay at home mother. I supported him through college, his engineering career, medical school and residency. He will make the big bucks. If he simply doesn't want to compromise then what recourse do I have? One can not make the horse drink!

    Mrs. Panda Bear
  39. motherof4

    motherof4

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    I am Mrs Panda Bear. I have been researching what my husband has been posting on the forums. I thought he had stopped when our son was 1 year old. I was saddened when I first saw he had over 4,000 posts way back then and now I am troubled by his blog and recent discovery of almost 10,000 posts on this network.

    My husband's training has not been so difficult. The long hours I have spent at home alone are now filled with reading, painting, saber fencing, hiking, talking with friends, antique shopping, gardening, mowing my own lawn, shopping for groceries, paying the bills, managing our debt, laundry, keeping up with the children's activities, advocating for my children, bow and arrow target practice, renovating part of my basement with my own two hands, stripping and refinishing my kitchen cabinets, polishing stones and refereeing and playing with my children.

    The most unpleasant thing I have had to cope with is the lack of connection to my spouse. He is tired and worn out from the hospital, has very little to say about his day, complains about how messy our house is, and then spends hours and hours writing to his imaginary friends on the forums and his blog. We had at one time 5 dogs and 4 children. Our house is messy, wild and chaotic.

    So here I am writing to his imaginary friends on the forum; expressing my side of the story. If I had the choice to do it over again, I would never have encouraged him to attend medical school. It has changed him greatly. He was happier in our marriage when he didn't like his job so much. The career change was my sacrifice to give him professional satisfaction. I believed in traditional marriage. I believed he would always be stong and meet my emotional needs; he pursued me for years and wrote me many letters in order to win me over. Now that he has the ultimate professional satisfaction of being a high paying EM doctor, I am not as valuable. He has all the adoration he can ever need from the staff at the hospital, his happy patients, and his forum and blog groupies. If he chooses not to resolve a conflict there is little to no recourse I have. Such a pitty.

    And you all have loved my husband's writing at my and my children's expense. I acknowledge he is a great writer. His blog is a great piece of work with over 1,000,000 pages. However there was a cost. Those words didn't just sudenly appear. It has taken many long hours to entertain you all. Time he should have been focusing on learning relationship skills, parenting skills, dog training and our family.

    Mrs Panda Bear
  40. longhorn09

    longhorn09

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    I really doubt if you get time and energy left to find a bf/gf during the med school years...:(
  41. smq123

    smq123 John Singer Sargent Administrator SDN Senior Moderator SDN Advisor

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    It's not so bleak. Lots of people date in med school. Quite a few will get engaged and even get married during med school.

    If it matters to you, you'll make time/energy for it.
  42. longhorn09

    longhorn09

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    Are most of the girls in med schools already hooked up even before they go to med schools?:confused:
  43. smq123

    smq123 John Singer Sargent Administrator SDN Senior Moderator SDN Advisor

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    It's a combination.

    Some will be married or engaged. Not many, but a few.

    Some will be in relationships (probably long-distance ones) that will go belly-up a few months in to med school.

    The rest will be single and looking.

    (This holds true for the guys, too.)
  44. motherof4

    motherof4

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    Yes, this was true when Panda Bear was in med school. Many couples were formed over gross anatomy lab.

    Mrs Panda Bear
  45. SoFreakedOut

    SoFreakedOut Resident Hottie

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    Messages:
    176
    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    SDN 7+ Year Member
    That's rough. Good luck with all of that and I hope things get better soon. SDN is definitely not more fun than "real" life.
  46. cliffhuxtableDO

    cliffhuxtableDO Hand sanitizer on deck

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2008
    Messages:
    6,232
    Status:
    Medical Student
    SDN 5+ Year Member
    watch Doctor's Diaries, ALL pre-meds should be required to.
  47. FuturaDocta

    FuturaDocta Pop_Princess_MD

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    1,219
    Location:
    Off the charts
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    Anyone watch "Doctor's Diaries" on Nova? I am not entirely accurate as to how this looks, since the residency hours have changed quite a bit.

    But, everyone student from Harvard Med in this documentary surprisingly divorced at least once.

    Anyway, since I am not a medical student, does this seem accurate to you?

    [YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Kba_WfXITs[/YOUTUBE]

    EDIT: I just saw your post Msb1190 after I posted this. What a coincidence.

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