What is it about high stress and cadavers that sparks romance for so many medical students? It’s true–many couples meet and marry in medical school or residency. In fact, a 2020 study by the American Medical Association Insurance Agency (AMAIA) found up to 40% of physicians are married to other healthcare professionals, many times, to another physician.
Data from a recent Jackson Physician Search and LocumTenens.com survey shows nearly one in five Millennial physicians is married to another physician. For Generation X, the percentage was 12% and for Baby Boomers, 5%. The data is clear–the number of physicians marrying physicians increases with each generation.
Whether they meet in med school, residency, or on the job, physician couples will find both benefits and challenges in this pairing. Certainly, spouses with a shared profession will better understand the professional challenges the other faces and be more equipped to empathize with the stress, pressures, and demands of practicing medicine. That said, participants in dual-physician marriages may find it more difficult to disconnect from work since they have an ever-present colleague with whom they may be tempted to discuss cases. They may also struggle even more than most to find a manageable work-life balance.
Of course, each dual-physician marriage is unique, however, these married physicians are likely to experience similar obstacles. If you are among the increasing number of physicians married to another physician, you are likely already familiar with the following challenges. Keep reading for some simple steps to address the issues during your next physician job search.
Married Physician Job Search Challenges
The process of applying for a residency match or first physician job is always stressful, so when you factor in the need to make a second match or find a second physician job, the pressure doubles. The realization that where one’s fate lies, so does the other’s may not set in until the application process begins, when each physician realizes they not only have to worry about their own ability to impress, they are counting on their spouse to perform well also.
An unattached physician can pursue any opportunity that feels right–major metro, rural, academic, private practice, etc. However, married physicians must also consider if their physician spouse will find an acceptable opportunity in that setting. For those searching in a major metro, the problem is less daunting, but for those who want or need to work in a rural setting, perhaps to comply with visa requirements or student loan contingencies, it can be very difficult to secure a second opportunity for a physician spouse.
Timing presents another challenge. Oftentimes, the married physicians don’t finish their training at the same time, so they may be faced with spending a year or more in different cities. This is especially true when the physician requires a J1 visa. The requirements of the visa will not allow a physician to wait for a spouse to finish training or to secure a job in the same location, leaving the couple with difficult decisions to make.
Married Physician Job Search Tip:
Working with a national physician recruitment firm and a well-connected physician recruiter is especially important for married physicians seeking new physician jobs. Physician recruiters often know of physician job openings before they are posted or may leverage their network to identify, or even create, an opportunity.
For example, when Dr. S and his wife, Dr. H, were in their last year of residency in New York, Dr. S applied for a California anesthesiology job through Jackson Physician Search recruiter, Becky Casais. Becky could tell he was a great fit for the job right away, so when she presented him, she was sure to advocate for his wife, an Emergency Medicine physician. She used her connections with her client to find an opportunity with the ER group for his wife, even though they were not planning to hire anyone new.
While each situation is different, most physician recruiters will advise prioritizing the physician with more specialization. For example, a Family Medicine physician will likely be able to find an opportunity anywhere, but his pediatric cardiologist wife will likely need to be in a major metro. Thus, the cardiologist’s needs should guide the job search.
Double the Medical School Debt
Another potential difficulty in dual-physician marriages is the heavy student loan debt they both bring to the marriage. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average medical school graduate owes $241,600 in total student loan debt. So, a two-physician household starts their life together with nearly half a million dollars of debt.
Seeing as financial issues are one of the top causes of distress in marriage, carrying so much debt can be a source of stress and anxiety for dual-physician couples, even after they start earning six-figure salaries. If both partners aren’t on the same page regarding the priority of paying down the debt, problems will likely surface.
Married Physician Job Search Tip:
Physicians married to physicians should prioritize loan repayment in job offers. Be upfront with the physician recruiter about the importance of loan assistance, and if possible, the employer may customize the physician job offer to meet your needs.
Domestic and Dependent Care Challenges
Studies suggest work-life balance is increasingly important to physicians, and yet, a report from The Physicians Foundation found more than half of physicians work more than 50 hours per week, and more than a quarter work more than 60. When both partners have demanding, often high-stakes jobs, the division of non-professional work–childcare, housekeeping, elder care–can be especially problematic.
Fortunately, two-physician marriages come with two physician incomes, and hiring help for domestic tasks may need to be prioritized right up there with paying off student debt. Outsourcing tasks such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, and even grocery shopping can allow both partners to enjoy their time off rather than feel they are simply changing shifts.
Married Physician Job Search Tip:
Hiring help may only take a couple so far, and when it comes to childcare, some physicians will only want to outsource so much. For this reason, it is especially important for dual-physician couples to seek out employers that prioritize work-life balance. Physician couples should think through what that looks like to them–whether it’s a four-day workweek, no call on weekends, or more administrative support–and talk to potential employers about those specific needs.
Above all, dual physician couples should start their search even earlier–up to two years before completing their training. If already practicing, flexibility is key. It may take longer than anticipated to find the perfect pair of physician jobs.
Because the physician job search process presents additional challenges to physician couples, a good physician recruiter can advise accordingly. Reach out to the Jackson Physician Search Recruitment team today and start your physician job search. Or, download our physician job search playbook.