Tips for non-medical people to keep in mind when dating residents
1. Feed them. Residents work long hours. They are hungry. If they are working a late shift or overnight, you win huge points if you offer to bring them food. Even huger points if that food includes a cookie. Enormous points if you made that cookie yourself. Infinite points if you recognize that even though they tell you they can come down to meet you and grab the food at a certain time, something might come up, and they might be delayed. Maybe even for an hour. It is not their fault. They do not want to be leading a rapid response. They do not want to be performing CPR. They would rather be eating the food you have brought for them. They would rather be seeing you. Don’t blame them. Don’t make them feel bad. They are trying their best.
2. Listen to them. Residents have crazy things happen to them, often multiple crazy things on the same day. You may not actually care about what happened to Patient Smith. And you don’t have to care about what happened to Patient Smith. But if your resident wants to talk about Patient Smith, and wants reassurance that he or she didn’t accidentally kill Patient Smith, try and listen. If, on the other hand, your resident doesn’t want to talk about Patient Smith, or Patient Anyone, don’t push. Talk about your non-medical day. Non-medical things are interesting to residents, especially after a 27 hour shift talking only about medicine.
3. Learn some basic medicine. This is a hard one. I am sure that there are couples out there who don’t know many details about the other person’s job. People in law or finance or medicine or anything technical. I’m sure. I can’t imagine how that works. Without someone having at least a basic understanding of what I do, I don’t know where to start the conversation. If you are dating a resident, try and read some stuff about residency. Blogs might be the easiest place to start. (Hey, there are archives here!) Books are good too. Intern Blues is the first one that comes to mind. At least then you know what your resident is talking about, a little bit. Ask questions, sure, but starting with some base of knowledge makes things easier. It’s not mandatory, of course. But it helps. Read relevant articles in the newspaper, perhaps. At least it’s a start.
4. Tell your family not to ask for free medical advice, or, even worse, prescriptions. Your resident is not automatically your family’s new free doctor. Your resident probably doesn’t know enough to actually help, even if he or she wanted to — and, most likely, he or she doesn’t want to. In an emergency, sure. But that knee pain, or those warts — tell them to see their actual doctor, and hold the questions. Your resident does not want to perform physical exams at Thanksgiving.
5. Recognize sleep deprivation for what it is, and not a larger sign of relationship trouble. Your resident is cranky? It probably isn’t your fault. That’s not an excuse, but understand that on the rare day off, maybe 13 hours of sleep is what your resident needs, even more than a delicious brunch that you even made a reservation for. Your resident is not trying to be difficult, or selfish, or lazy. Your resident is tired, and emotionally drained.
6. Indulge your resident’s use of the pause button on the DVR when watching shows with medical elements. It is likely very frustrating for your resident to watch Grey’s Anatomy or its television siblings. Your resident will likely stop the show multiple times and try and explain to you why the surgical resident would never be called in to consult on the child with the stomach virus. Your resident will grow frustrated as he or she sees the doctor touching infected blood with bare hands. Understand the frustration, and let your resident vent for fifteen seconds before continuing the show. Also understand if the last thing your resident wants to watch on a day off are shows about medicine. Good grief.
7. Let your resident shower before you approach. The hospital is nasty. Your resident wants to protect you. Don’t make that difficult by complaining it’s late, there are dinner plans, and there is no time to shower. There is always time to shower. Especially when covered in MRSA.