Many years ago I was a full-time ‘nocturnist.’ That is, I worked all nights for our small emergency medicine group. It was actually pretty nice because my compensation was to work fewer shifts than my partners.

Allow me to give a little background before I go foreward. My wife, Jan, is a trained professional counselor with a master’s degree. (This has been a great blessing and a huge part of my sanity in a sometimes insane work environment.)

After I had worked full-time nights for about six years give or take, she came to me and said ‘you need to stop working nights because you’re depressed, you’re unhappy and you don’t laugh anymore. Even the kids have noticed it.’ It was hard to argue with her. I didn’t sleep well during the day, I was a little pale and vampiric and I could feel the exhaustion creeping up on me between violating my circadian rhythm and subsisting on a night-time diet of chocolate, cheeseburgers and sweet tea.

When I went to my group to tell them the news, there was almost weeping but they were awesome partners who understood. I went back to a ‘normal’ schedule for an emergency physician, consisting of days, evenings and nights mixed together. No, not necessarily healthy, but it lifted my mood pretty quickly and I felt as close to stable as one can in that setting.

The point of that story is that my wife’s insight and wisdom was key to my well-being. She understands the weirdness of this medical life and is actually perfect as a medical spouse.

Those of us in medicine, nursing, paramedicine or any affiliated medical field frequently have husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, children or even parents who care about us, who watch us in our struggles and who do their best to help.

However, these people rarely get a voice in things. We don’t hear their stories or ideas. And yet, they’re left to deal with the consequences of everything from disasters to small tragedies, pandemics, contract changes and job disruptions, PTSD, substance abuse, depression, grief, anxiety, relationship stresses and all of the debris that follows in the wake of our lives in these various stressful careers.

But those who love us know things. In fact, back when I was in the group of docs mentioned above, our director and his wife would have a quarterly dinner meeting at his house and insist on our wives being present. He wanted their input, knowing as he did that their happiness was key to the success of the group. And also counting on them to alert him to concerns about their husbands.

So in this space I speak not to my colleagues but to those who love them. To the ones who see the weeping over loss, the anger at injustice, ridiculous rules and toxic leadership, the exaustion both physical and emotional. To those who listen to the occasional ‘I’m quitting, I swear I am, I can’t do this anymore!’ I want to hear from all of those whose unique calling is to be the solid foundation on which we depend.

The thing is, every patient I see, every life I impact, is also touched indirectly by my wife and the way she has comforted, consoled and encouraged me to keep going, to keep doing. It’s a package deal. If not for her I’d be exhausted, overweight, irritable (well, more irritable) and far less effective than I am.

Thus, dear friends, tell me your stories! Tell me the things you never have a chance to say! How has the pandemic affected your loved one? How have the policies around it impacted them?

What are they dealing with in terms of corporate medicine? What ridiculous rules make their lives harder? What good leadership has made them happier? What change in career has lifted them up? What suffering have they borne that you can’t seem to understand or help?

You have pain as well, dear ones. You too often are victims of the ‘friendly fire’ the ‘collateral damage’ of our high-pressure, high-performing and often self-centered personalites. Are there things you need help with in your life? We aren’t always easy people to live with or love. This can be a forum for that as well.

No rules here. This isn’t a ‘mandate vs no-mandate’ discussion, or a vax vs anti-vax. This is about the people you love and what you want others to know And remember, someone needs to hear that they and their spouse aren’t alone.

Let’s use this as a chance to support and help one another, if only by acknowledging the unspoken difficulty that medical professionals and their partners face very day.

Thank you in advance.

Have at it. And please, forward to other people you know who might want to comment.



PS  This is also posted at my new Substack account:

You might want to go there and post responses or see responses from others in addition to anything you might want to leave here.  Thanks for all you do!


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