students walking on campus

Significant Other Support

Helpful Tips and Suggestions

In terms of evaluating what your significant other is telling you about their experience in medical school, it helps to get details about exactly what they are going through.  For example, he or she may say that they will be “in class all day”.  In fact, on the first day of medical school, they will receive the equivalent of 3 weeks’ worth of undergraduate lectures.  In the first two years of medical school, their vocabularies will expand by approximately 10,000 words.  Keeping these things in mind, and asking them for details about what they are learning and what they are responsible for will not only help them feel supported, but will prevent the possibility that you might assume they are exaggerating the difficulty of the tasks ahead of them!

There are three primary reasons that people fail in medical school; 1) poor time management skills, 2) too many personal demands to keep up with the work, and 3) inherent lack of interest in the information they are required to learn.  Obviously, the relationship that they have with you will weigh heavily on the second issue, so don’t underestimate its importance, even when it seems like you are last on your significant other’s list of priorities.

It is also really crucial to be proactive.  If you sense that your significant other is experiencing depression, anxiety, or other types of psychological distress, encourage them to make an appointment at CAPS right away (843-792-4930;  By the same token, the staff of the Dean’s Office is more than willing to talk to you or your significant other at any time, and would much prefer to know about potential issues on the front end.

There are lots of good internet resources relating to what it is really like to be a medical student.  Some suggestions are: (Medicine from the Trenches) and

There is no one who can better relate to what you are going through than other significant others who are going through it at the same time.  Starting a book club, supper club, or other group exclusively for significant others will not only help you meet new people, but will enrich your experience dramatically because it will be shared.

Alyssa Averill, PhD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

September 2010