How to Manage Relationships While in Med School

Lazaro Peraza
Published on Feb 18, 2019. Updated on Mar 21, 2023.

As if medical school wasn’t difficult enough on its own, maintaining a stable, healthy relationship during medical school sometimes seems impossible. But if you can work through the obstacles and learn how to manage a relationship, it can actually become a huge advantage, and a source of much-needed support through all of the stress and pressure that studying to become a physician entails.

There are three main qualities that, in my opinion, are absolutely essential to having a great relationship: patience, effective communication, and empathy. Now, of course, in any ordinary relationship these three things are ideal, but for someone in medical school these qualities are critical for both partners. Allow me to elaborate.

Quality 1: Patience

They say patience is a virtue, and when you’re running from lecture to lab, studying for hours every night, and you have years of residency ahead of you, this motto really rings true. Not only must you practice patience with yourself, taking each task one step at a time for example, but your partner needs to practice patience with you. And that is no easy feat.

In medical school, it’s hard to make time for yourself, let alone taking care of another individual’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. That’s not to say you will never have a successful relationship! It just becomes that much more important for both partners to understand each other’s priorities and exercise a whole lot of patience. Selfishness won’t get you far here, even when the intention is good. Sometimes you’re just going to have to wait—whether that’s until the upcoming exam is over, or you finally get off your round at the hospital.

Quality 2: Effective communication

Communication is key. As the perfect building block to any relationship, you cannot be successfully patient in your relationship without good, open, and honest communication. How else can your partner manage not hearing from you for 8 hours while you’re on your surgery rotation? Or know not to call you in the middle of an intense study session?

Being able to communicate what your schedule is like for the week, or how school is affecting you is critical because no one else can fully understand what it’s like to be in medical school besides you. If you plan on having a good relationship, you’re going to have to let your partner in on what’s going on in your life so they can act accordingly and support you in the best way possible.

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Quality 3: Empathy

And to tie it all together, there’s empathy. You can have all the patience in the world, communicate as efficiently and effectively as possible, and it will be almost meaningless if you cannot fully understand a situation from your partner’s perspective. Sure, all you can think about is getting a 250+ on your USMLE® Step 1 exam, but can you truly envision how your partner feels when the only time they speak to you or see you, you’re cranky and tired? Of course, it goes both ways—your partner should put themselves in your shoes and imagine how difficult studying for an exam like that must be. That’s where communication and patience make an appearance again.

As a quick recap

The aforementioned qualities: patience, effective communication, and empathy are the ultimate trifecta in managing and sustaining a wonderful relationship. Not enough of any one of these and it throws the entire equation off balance—not something we ever want to do in medicine or in life.


Lazaro attends the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. He is most interested in interventional radiology, general surgery, and ENT. Lazaro was originally born in Cuba, but grew up in Las Vegas, NV. When he is not studying or busy with school, much of his time is dedicated towards his favorite hobbies which include photography and video editing and creation, bartending at his family’s tapas restaurant, and playing basketball with classmates.

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