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A tricky little thing called love

In spring, a young medical student’s thoughts lightly turn to exams, and if they are lucky, romance.

Doctors need love too and Scrubs, ER and especially Grey’s Anatomy could not have existed without it. If you are embarking on a career spent looking at illness, you need lots of affection and romance in your life.

I remember the surgeon who was in full declamatory flow as he stitched and sewed. He lambasted his colleagues, the government, the hospital administrators, and was just starting on his juniors when a scrub nurse slipped up to him and whispered that his wife (who used to have her job) was on speaker phone with an important message. Then her voice filled the theatre: “Bring home a loaf of bread and two pints of milk when you’re coming. And don’t be late.”

That silenced him for a while. Then he muttered to me in a bitter tone: “Nurses. We marry them because they’re the only women we ever see. Them and barmaids.”

The trouble with being a (male) doctor is that most just have to get married, as they have so little time to attend to maintaining themselves and a home that they would probably die of neglect if they stayed single, or worse, turn up at the hospital ball looking like a tramp. Somebody has to make sure the tie matches the shirt and he eats something that isn’t a biscuit. The only choice when looking for love is whether to select a partner from the trade or not.

Nurses, physiotherapists and radiologists have the advantage of being around, in that the young doctor does not have to emerge from the hospital, blinking and twitching in the big world, and go about the uncertain business of finding a mate. Instead he can scurry about the wards in his plumage of white coat and scrubs and approach members of the opposite sex.

It is more difficult for you female doctor. Isn’t it always? If she is on the consultant pathway, the nice guys will probably be intimidated

The drawback to the nurse or physio is that she has no ‘respect’. She may respect the job you do and if you are lucky, the person who does it, but she is under no illusions that if you do a great and important job, it makes you a great person. Your teacher or librarian may forgive oafish behaviour because he is ‘such an important man’, but the medic (and the barmaid) knows that he is just being a jerk.

It is more difficult for your female doctor. Isn’t it always? If she is on the consultant pathway, the nice guys will probably be intimidated. The only ones not intimidated are the Lotharios who are attracted by the salary and are probably a bad bet. She will be in her late 30s by the time she can contemplate having children, having battered her way through a succession of glass ceilings by working harder and longer than the guys. When she gets to have a baby, she is pushing 40. When her body was ready her mind was not, and now she has a lot of hard thinking to do.

Doctors who marry each other tend to hook-up after about three or four years in college, as friends from home depart with their BAs and new relationships are formed in the hot forge of hospital training.

Some jobs are just so demanding that one person, usually the woman, takes the easier option. Many a brilliant woman takes the path to public health when she knows in her heart she could have been a fabulous obstetrician, and her less talented partner struggles up the training ladder. Sadly, there is only room for one high-powered job in most marriages.

It is best if the specialties avoid each other. For instance, the prospect of two psychiatrists living together is too awful to contemplate. All that infuriatingly reasonable righteousness squared is bound to implode.

But if the Medical Independent ever starts a dating agency, it should pair GPs with other GPs.

They can discuss problem patients at the breakfast table without breaking confidence and then be gung-ho for work, the problem having being shared and if not sorted, at least expressed. The male GP will spend most of his time in the office and the female GP will regularly pull herself away from cooking, household maintenance and parenting to give him a break and then she’ll fly with ease through the work that he finds so taxing.

They become a formidable tag team at all kinds of meetings, having worked out their strategy in the car on the way over. They will inevitably fall into a bad cop/good cop routine at work. He will grow into the family doctor role until it takes him over completely, and she will occasionally gaze fondly at him when nobody is looking, remembering the tousle-headed youth who looked nothing like any sort of doctor. To him she has not changed at all. And she never will.

  1. KMan on June 2, 2015 at 11:33 am

    What happens if you’re two gay doctors? Who will do the cooking and house maintenance then?

  2. Female Consultant on May 28, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    The 1950’s called, it want’s it’s opinions back. Seriously could you fit anymore cliches into one article. Very offensive and not true for most medics.

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