More than half (55%) of clinicians in a recent Doximity poll of 3,957 respondents say their career has positively impacted their marriage. However, 33% of clinicians with spouses not in medicine say that their career has negatively affected their marriage, compared to just 11% of clinicians with spouses in medicine.
Based on poll results, physicians are the most likely (40%) to be married to other clinicians, while NPs are least likely (25%). Meanwhile, medical students (63%) and pharmacists (59%) are most likely to say their career has helped their marriage.
Specialties most likely to report that their career in medicine has positively impacted their marriage include ob/gyn (66%), cardiology (63%), neonatology (63%), and ophthalmology (62%). Physicians in some specialties are more likely to report that their career positively impacted their marriage to another clinician, including cardiology (37%), radiation oncology (36%), and general surgery (34%).
Meanwhile, specialties that report that their career hurt their marriage are predominantly surgical, including thoracic surgery (69%), ENT (65%), vascular surgery (64%), urology (56%), and orthopaedic surgery (54%). Surgeons work more hours than physicians in non-surgical specialties on average, which may put stress on relationships.
Women (55%) are slightly more likely than men (53%) to report that their career benefitted their marriage . Women married to non-clinicians are also more likely to believe their career has benefited their marriage, with 32% of women married to non-clinicians responding positively vs 26% of men. Conversely, men are slightly more likely to report that their career had a positive impact on their marriage to another clinician (26%), versus 23% of women.
Clinicians working in Louisiana (63%), Alabama (61%), Indiana (60%), Texas (60%), and Connecticut (59%) are the most likely to say that their career positively impacted their marriage. Meanwhile, clinicians in Iowa (59%), Utah (58%), Minnesota (57%), Colorado (55%) and Michigan (54%) are more likely to report that their career had a negative impact on their marriage.
Many factors could be contributing to lower marriage satisfaction among clinicians whose spouses are not in medicine. Clinicians often work long hours, which could mean less time with their families. Even when they return home from work, many physicians may need to spend additional time charting. A study from JAMA Internal Medicine found that physicians on average spent nearly two hours a day on EHR tasks outside of work.
On an optimistic note, the AMA did highlight that couples may have more time to see each other if they work in the same setting or for the same hospital, such as during lunch breaks or by co-commuting. While the AMA article focused on clinician couples, there’s ways that couples in different fields could also find time together during their workdays.
One more factor aiding couples in medicine is a shared understanding of the emotional and physical toll of clinical work. Claire Weitz, MD, an ob/gyn from Baltimore, MD, spoke of her unbreakable bond with her partner.
“We used to call it ‘trench training’ — alternate night calls (because of children), balance of power, and a deep understanding of stresses of medicine on each other,” she said. “It will be 43 years together come September. I would not trade it for anything!”
Similarly, some clinicians have found success in their marriages by bringing their non-clinician partner into medicine by opening a private practice together.
“Just like my own parents (surgeon dad, businesswoman mom), I’m now in my own solo practice with my wife as my practice manager,” said Nirav Patel, MD, a plastic surgeon in Georgia who owns a private practice. “Almost 16 years of marriage, two kids, and a stressful surgery career has not yet ruined us.”
If a career in medicine is negatively impacting one's marriage, changing practice settings or work hours can help increase quality time for couples and have a positive impact on marriage satisfaction. For example, clinicians who transition to private practice tend to have more predictable work schedules than those in hospitals, which may be more conducive to managing a marriage and family. In addition, couples that find a way to work similar hours may find it easier to create quality time with one another.