Nearly 40 percent of physicians are likely to marry another physician or health care professional, according to the 2014 Work/Life Profiles of Today’s Physician released last year by AMA Insurance.
Many physicians marry other health care workers because of life timing and availability, said Steve Sherick, MD, an emergency medicine doctor who lives with his wife, a pediatric oncologist, in Colorado.
“The times in your life when you’re seeking a partner happen to coincide very nicely with the time you’re in medical school and training,” he said. “It’s a huge chunk of life, and your social circles revolve around that.”
Working long hours with friends at the hospital, especially during residency, may also stoke the flames for a new romance. As a resident, Krista Bott, MD, a surgeon at Moses Taylor Hospital, said she worked nearly 80 hours a week at the hospital and when she wasn’t there, she’d study for hours at home. “All of my friends in the area were from work,” she said. “So it came as no surprise to me that most of the people who worked there, dated there.” During her residency, Bott followed suit and began dating a nurse, who is now her husband.
Benefits of medical marriages
Some physicians report that they enjoy having a companion who shares their perspective and passion for medicine.
“As doctors, your lives are so incredibly busy that it’s hard to meet people outside medicine and when you do, it’s hard to explain why you really need to work on Christmas or go in at 2 a.m. for a delivery, “said Kavita Shah Arora, MD, an assistant professor of reproductive biology and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University and a gynecologist at Metro Health Medical Center. Dr. Arora married a urology resident. “When you’re with someone in medicine, you have that shared language and experience. You share the same set of values when it comes to helping others and putting your responsibility as a physician above your relationship’s needs.”
Dr. Sherick said there’s also a psychological and emotional benefit to marrying someone who understands the challenges unique to doctors, such as losing patients or critical life events. “Most people see someone dying once or twice in life, but for us, it’s not an uncommon thing,” he said. “It can be tough on you if you’re with someone who doesn’t understand.”
Plus, there’s an added bonus to having a medical partner at home.
“We can speak the same medical jargon,” Dr. Bott said, which eases communication in her relationship because explaining situations in lay-terms can become frustrating.
Challenges for physicians to consider
While many physicians have found love and compromise among their colleagues, entering a relationship with someone in the health care profession has its challenges.
For one, if you and your partner have children, finding reliable childcare that accommodates the schedules of two busy physicians can be difficult.
It’s also hard to strike work-life balance as a couple, Dr. Arora said, adding that having “your heart and soul wrapped up in your patients” can really strain a relationship.
And while many doctors have found comfort in their shared traits, being too similar has its disadvantages too. “As a doctor, you’re taught that you’re the decision-maker. You’re the decider but then you go home and you’re with another decision-maker,” Dr. Sherick said.
Still, despite the potential pitfalls of medical marriages, Dr. Bott said she’s happy to build a life with someone who shares her plans for the future. “We can really go anywhere we want and there will always be a hospital to work in,” she said. “We are comfortable in life, we can do the things we want, and our children will be well-cared for.”
Find more resources for physician families and relationships at the AMA Alliance website and with Physician Family, the AMA Alliance’s quarterly magazine.