5 ways residents can sustain long-distance relationships

June 21, 2016

In the medical field, it is very common to see long distance relationships amongst healthcare professionals including medical students, residents, and fellows who are often in different training programs across the country.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Joshua Mali, MD, a vitreoretinal surgeon at The Eye Associates, a private multispecialty ophthalmology practice in Sarasota, FL. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

After reflecting on this past year, I felt inspired to write an article on a topic that I hope will be interesting and helpful to a particular subset of people: professional/physician couples. To establish my credibility on the subject matter, it is essential for me to present our background. When my wife and I got married, I was in my final year of ophthalmology residency training at Albany Medical College and about to start my upcoming retina fellowship in Albany as well.

My wife was completing her medical internship and started ophthalmology residency at Albany Medical Center as I was just completing it. If you do the math, I would complete my two-year fellowship while she would still have one more year in residency training. At the end of fellowship, I was presented with an offer for my dream job as being the retinal specialist for The Eye Associates in Sarasota, Florida.

At first, I was not even going to consider a long-distance relationship for obvious reasons. However, after consultation and weighing the decision very carefully, I realized it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and it was an opportunity for my wife and I to conquer a challenge together as a team.

More from Dr. Mali: 5 things interviewers look for in residency candidates

In the medical field, it is very common to see long distance relationships amongst healthcare professionals including medical students, residents, and fellows, who are often in different training programs across the country.

The key is remembering that it will only be a temporary situation. Therefore, as we have successfully managed our long distance relationship this year, we thought we would share some tips that can be helpful to others.

 

 

1. Frequent Visits

 

 

 

This seems like an obvious choice for #1 on our list and rightfully so. It is critical to try and compensate for the time you will not be together. This is also influenced by geographic location; shorter distances are more conducive to increased visits and time spent together in person.

This year, we were about a 3-hour plane ride apart. Of course if it were possible, we would visit each other every weekend. Practically, we determined that it was feasible to at least visit each other one weekend every 2 weeks. This was also augmented by holidays, vacations, and ophthalmology conferences.

Of course, this should be individualized to each couple’s situation. In addition, if one of you is starting a new job/employment, try to negotiate a more accommodating schedule or more vacation days during this long-distance time.         

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2. Communication

 

 

Communication through multiple methods is extremely helpful in maintaining that personal contact while a thousand miles away from each other. Facetime/skype, email, and texts should be utilized to maintain as much contact as possible. 

As a married couple living together, you take for granted that physical act of waking up next to each other and going to bed together, so it’s important to try and supplement that with your spouse with increased communication between each other.  

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3. Coordination is key

 

 

Coordinating call schedules, vacation dates, and social events have even higher stakes in long-distance relationships. It is helpful to ensure being on call at the same times if possible; this will help minimize unavailable visiting dates.

Make sure to schedule your vacation dates wisely in order to maximize the amount of time you can spend together. You may want to consider multiple shorter vacations in order to assist with maintaining your frequent visit plan.

Travel logistics for important social events like weddings and family related activities need to be planned well in advance. Additionally, make an extra effort to coordinate activities that you can do together (a recent example for us is writing this article together!).

More from Dr. Mali: Top 5 things candidates should look for in a residency

 

4. Consultation, Compromise, & Flexibility

 

 

We probably could have put this higher on the list but we think it almost goes without saying how important it is to consult with your spouse on important matters and work together to achieve compromise.

With long-distance relationships, it becomes even more vital and should be done in more frequency given the distance from each other. Always keep in mind that you are teammates for life.

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5. The surprise visit

 

 

To round off the top 5, I threw in a wild card with the “surprise visit”. I find surprises are an exciting way to keep it interesting and show how much you care about your soul mate.

This year, I surprised Yasmin by taking her on a weekend getaway ski trip in Vermont (photo above), I didn’t tell her exactly when I was coming or what the plan was so it caught her by surprise and was a fun/romantic experience.

Definitely consider the surprise visit!

Editorial: How long will you live?

 

Overall, the long-distance relationship can seem like a challenging and overwhelming endeavor, but with the right preparation, confidence in each other, and dedication to your significant other, you can achieve anything. Remember, love conquers all!    

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