Dating in Medical School: What to Expect & How to Make It Work

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke

Medical school is a time-consuming endeavor. Long hours working, attending classes, and staying up late studying quickly fill up a student’s schedule and demand more time attention than the initial MCAT prep. This can make it quite difficult to balance work and school with an enjoyable social life. When it comes to dating in medical school, a student should carefully consider their situation so they (and their partner) know what to expect.

Can You Date In Medical School – Is It Possible and Is It Worth It?

Between classes, clinicals, and studying, it may be hard for a student to find time for relationships. Kevin Yang, a fourth-year osteopathic student, suggested that in a typical school week, he studies between 30 to 40 hours. This workload will only leave a few hours to explore interests outside of work and school and it’s healthy for students to use using their limited free time to pursue the things that bring them the most leisure and happiness.

With that being said, the infrequent free hours that you DO have may not always be nicely scheduled. Your schedule will almost always be provided and you won’t control the timing of rigorous exams, and some weeks will be more taxing than others. Although it is possible to make a relationship work in med school, there will inevitably be challenges that are unique to your situation. It is possible to spend time with your significant other, but the experience will not be easy.

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Making It Work as a Med School Student

To make it worth it, you’ll have to acknowledge the unique circumstance you’re in and make an effort to work within those constraints.

Edward Chang, a former medical student at UCLA and current a resident at the University of Wisconsin, noted his struggles with dating during medical school. Since time is scarce for medical students, Chang explained that he began overvaluing his time leading him to think his time was more important than other people’s time. He felt like every moment could’ve been a moment for studying and preparing himself.

To remedy this issue in his relationship, he would set aside “protected time” with his significant other. By blocking out time specifically for a relationship, he was able to enjoy the time he spent and not worry about the other things on his plate.

Chang also admitted that dating in med school inevitably leads to less time hanging out in person and more time texting. This makes sense because you aren’t going to be able to hang out three or four times a week with your partner while balancing coursework. Chang’s main issue is that texting can easily lead to miscommunications. These situations can hurt a relationship and make you or your partner feel unimportant and ignored. To avoid this, Chang recommends saying things that are affirming to your partner more often over text, so they do not forget that they’re valued.

He also mentions that it is never a good idea to go to bed upset. The ongoing issues in a relationship that get swept under the rug need to be confronted for a sustainable, long-term relationship to work out.

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Dating A Med Student – But You’re Not In Med School

If your significant other is a medical student, you should consider making changes to accommodate their schedule and responsibilities. It may not be easy to work with their rigorous workload, but it is possible with the right mindset and strategies.

Yang Yang, a third-year med student, discussed her experiences dating and shared some insights from her boyfriend, a software engineering student. He emphasized that dating a medical student requires “understanding, flexibility, and support.” A boyfriend in his situation needed to understand and empathize with his girlfriend’s workload, since there were days where she would study, go to class, study, come home for dinner, and then leave to study more. Since he understood her circumstances, he expected this to occur time to time and didn’t feel hurt that she didn’t spend as much time with him.

He reiterated that before spending time with her, he would check in with Yang to see how much work she still had to get done. He wanted to make sure that she would have enough time to study and complete assignments, so he wasn’t hurting her academically. This also helped Yang hold herself accountable, since socializing with her partner was an easy way to overly procrastinate studying.

If it’s difficult to schedule time around the hours of studying you need to get done, a couple can still go to a coffee shop and study on their respective subjects. This is better than nothing, especially if it’s a week with multiple exams. Although this mostly applies if the non-med student is still in college or has work they can do outside the office.

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Dealing With A Med School Break-Up While Keeping Your Grades Up

It’s difficult to handle a relationship ending, and it isn’t any easier when you’re swamped with coursework. Coping with a break-up is different for everyone, but there are things that you can do to keep yourself on track during the grieving process.

Afifa Noor, a medical intern, suggests that spending time with loved ones help someone heal after a relationship ends. You’ll need companionship, even if you feel like you want to be alone, so the best thing to do is surround yourself with people who care about you. It won’t be instantaneous, but this will help you progress forward with your life.

Maintaining routines and habits will be challenging if you’re going through a break-up, but it is an important factor in being a successful student. Attending classes and studying need to remain a consistent part of your day, even though you will be feeling down. To keep your semester together, you have to keep up the good habits that you have developed. With that being said, you should still set apart time to grieve and let your feelings loose.

Dating in medical school isn’t going to be easy – it requires a lot of sacrifice and understanding – but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided!