Long Distance Relationship + Medicine

I’ve never been big into Valentine’s day and honestly feel like it’s a big commercial holiday to boost the economy. That being said, I know the feeling of being alone from your significant other when all you see are mushy-gushy posts online (but keep reading, this post may help offer some light to your current situation).

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This here ^^^ is my boyfriend, Brian. We met in college during my sophomore year in Spanish class. Our whole relationship for the last decade has essentially been a long distance relationship (LDR).

USF MPH

In 2012, I moved from south Florida to Tampa to start graduate school. Sure, it was only 4 hours (200+ miles), but traveling every weekend wasn’t ideal. We would see each other once maybe every 3-4 weeks. But we made do for 2 years until he found a job and moved up to Tampa.  We were able to live together for a year until I found out I got accepted into PA school down in Miami!  Who wins best girlfriend award? THIS GIRL! He followed me up to Tampa, just for me to leave and return back home. And back to south Florida, I went while Brian remained in Tampa.

Most of my classmates were already locals to south Florida and lived with their significant others. I couldn’t help but be envious of their relationships. Still, I continued to push on focusing on my goals of becoming a PA. I guess part of the reason why I studied alone in PA school was the comfort of studying “together.” I often would sign on to Facetime and we’d sit there mostly in silence and studied together. He was also working on his master’s, so as weird as it was, it’s what we did.

Didactic year was probably the toughest. The stress was a lot and with non-stop exams/quizzes, it was almost impossible to go anywhere. As an inaugural program, we had some flexibility in our rotations so I requested to have some of my rotations in Tampa just to be closer to him. Regardless, every break or time we had together, we made the best of it. I tagged along on family Disney trips. Spent a day in the parks, the following day, studying.

Brian and I recently had a discussion about my schedule during PA school. Apparently, I was very strict when it came to my studies. When he offered to come down, I would turn him away so I can focus on studying. He never really communicated this and kept on supporting me and my decision. Unfortunately, I still feel some guilt even though it’s been a year after graduating.

Speaking of a year. Things didn’t really pan out the way I wanted to after graduation. I was struggling to find an ENT job in Tampa as a new grad and found myself a great opportunity to practice at an academic center about 2 hours north of Tampa (still.. that puts us 120+ miles away). The past year was better than what we had. We’d take turns seeing each other every other week. I’d sacrifice to spend extra time with him on the weekends and usually drove 2 hours to work first thing Monday mornings (Ha! No better way to start your work week, right?)

Again, he supported me through all of my ambitious adventures. The time is finally coming to an end. Brian found a wonderful research opportunity with the university and he will be moving in next weekend!

At the end of the day, medicine is a sacrifice. As tough as it was, I’m glad we made it out okay and there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel.

Brian full

And I get it! Long distance relationship isn’t for everyone. We had a serious conversation about our future prior to starting school.  I’ve heard horror stories about people breaking up in medical school.  Truth is, if you have doubts or trust issues, it may not work out. I’m no relationship expert, but relationships are hard and it does take 2 to make it work.

However, with that said. I think there are some perks to being in a LDR.
1. You can focus on your studies with NO distractions (hahahah this just made me think of my Asian Mom saying, “No boys, focus on school!”
2. You learn to grow as an individual and this makes for a stronger relationship.
3. You become resilient as a couple.

If I’ve learned anything from this, I know the years spent apart have only made us stronger. Of course, I still have fears for the future, but I know that I have found a partner that will support me through any future obstacles. I owe my success of becoming a PA to him and my family.

So I leave you with a few tips for those embarking on a similar journey:

  • Newly accepted PA Student:Have “the talk” with your partner. Can they relocate with you? If not, what is your game plan? How often will you guys visit each other? Draw up some sort of “communication contract.” Something to hold each of you accountable.
  • PA Students:Make the best of your time when traveling. On my long commutes, I always listened to podcasts (Brian Wallace: PA Exam Review) or flash cards.
    • Engage your significant other! Teach them what you’re learning! Share your study guide with them and ask them to help quiz you!
    • If your program has any flexibility, request and see if you can do your elective rotations closer to home. You never know until you ask!
    • Make every break, count! Try not to study or have designated breaks planned and most importantly, have fun!

All in all the biggest tip is to have honest and open communication with one another. Check in regularly. Texts. Phone calls. FaceTime/Skype. I recall the nights on my ER rotation. We’d go days without speaking to one another. It’s tough, but you can do it!  This will all end one day and I assure you, they will be so proud the day they see you walking across that finish line with your dreams accomplished!

Brian was there for me for both graduate degrees and I’m so thankful for such a loving and understanding partner. Now I wait and return the favor as he embarks on his next journey!

Distance is temporary, not forever. 
Hold your head high and keep your eyes on the prize.

We’re all rooting for you!
And if you need someone to vent to. Send me a message, I’m here for you.

Xx,
Ngan

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