Now that almost everyone is back in school, school and dorm supplies are still everywhere. Parents and students descended upon the stores, snagging folders, paper, lunch boxes, futons and pretty much anything you can fit in a cozy 12’x12′ cinder block home. While everyone else has just gotten settled in and used to the school schedule again, med school has been back in session for more than a month.
Med students need some of the same school supplies as undergrads and high school students, with some extras (stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, you know), but as the spouse of a medical student, there are supplies I like to have to help with the school year too. I am no expert, but with one year of experience in the field, these are the main tools in my Med School Spouse Survival Kit.
A coffee pot and lots and lots of coffee – These are some of the basic necessities for any medical student and/or spouse. There are a lot of late night (or all-night) study sessions paired with early morning classes for the student or work for the spouse. Caffeine is great for this combination. Even better is a coffee pot you can program to start at a certain time, so all you have to do is pull your groggy self out of bed and pour it in a travel mug on your way out the door.
An eye mask to wear at night – With medical school comes late nights of studying. With late nights of studying comes a lack of sleep. Our apartment is small, so when Will studies in one room, the light streams through our glass bedroom doors (who thought that was a good idea?). In order to get a little more sleep myself, I keep this eye mask near the bed. I LOVE it. It has saved me from staying awake for many all-night study sessions. I have the one pictured above, which is nice and puffy, but I also like these two Breakfast at Tiffany’s masks (1, 2) and this monogrammed one.
Headphones – Often times Will will listen to his med school lectures on double speed. I have no idea how he understands anything the professor is saying, because it all sounds like a jumble to me. Nevermind that there are also some functions of the human body I never care to hear about again. Headphones make this situation oh so amiable. Will can wear headphones and listen to his babbling professors, or I can wear headphones to block out the information I don’t want to hear – or both! Headphones for the win!
A wall calendar – A wall calendar comes in handy for jotting down midterm and test dates, clinical weeks, social activities (med school related and not) and academic schedules. Even when I’m not in Will’s classes to hear the schedule, I can still see when he has a big test coming up or a holiday from classes. This one is similar to the one we keep on our fridge, but I think this chalkboard calendar decal is great too.
Since medical students don’t have much time or money, cookbooks for quick, easy and budget-friendly meals are always well-used. Will does a great job of pitching in and helping me with the cooking, but on nights before a big test neither of us wants to spend much time getting dinner on the table. These are some great cookbooks with healthy, easy and cheap recipes for our weekly menu.
The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook – Pardon my French. I love this cookbook. It is a great budget cookbook with dishes that are good enough to serve to guests. Some of them take more ingredients or time, some are very quick. Great for the med student and med student spouse on a budget.
Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? – Ina Garten always pulls through. Growing up, my family had almost all of her cookbooks. On the quest for easy meals that still taste great, this cookbook is a winner. Her recipes are easy to whip up so you have time to get back to studying the endocrine system…or hearing about it from the other room.
Sheet Pan Suppers – We make a lot of one dish meals, including sheet pan suppers. One dish meals are my favorite. Less dirty dishes, quicker cooking times, often healthy dishes and great flavor medleys. While we don’t have this cookbook yet, I have heard great things about it and since we basically made the meal pictured on the cover for dinner tonight, I have a feeling it would be super useful. In the same realm, Martha Stewart’s One Pot cookbook looks great too.
One of the most important parts of your Med School Spouse Survival Kit are your hobbies. With your significant other engulfed in studies most nights, you will have time to explore new hobbies and delve deeper into your existing hobbies. These will occupy your time while your doctor-to-be rattles off words you don’t understand and studies for yet another exam or clinical skills test. Over the past year, these are some of the tools I have used to expand the hobbies in my kit.
Photography: My trusty Canon camera is my favorite tool for photography at this point, but my iPhone is useful when I want a quick picture or when I am out and about and don’t want to lug around my big camera. I have the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, but it looks like they have discontinued that model. The T5i linked looks a comparable newer model.
Baking (for my newest hobby: this blog!): I have a lot of baking equipment and utensils. My KitchenAid mixer is my favorite kitchen appliance and I don’t know what I would do without it. Make fewer cookies? That sounds terrible. I also use a Silpat all the time for baking cookies, granola, or anything else in a sheet pan. It is like reusable parchment paper that helps baked goods cook evenly. The end products slide right off the Silpat.
Needlepoint: I know, this sounds like a boring hobby for retired people, but don’t look down on it just yet! I learned how to needlepoint from my roommate in our sophomore year of college and have made two needlepoint belts for Will and a few key chains. With my other hobbies, there isn’t too much time left for needlepointing but it is still a great relaxing one to do on car trips and during tv shows.
While this is a good start to any medical student spouse’s survival kit, it is also important to enjoy the intangibles. Never take for granted any time you can spend together when your med student doesn’t have an upcoming test; social activities together or with your own friends should always be included; and taking a night, a day, or a weekend to relax, forget about the loans and tests, and treat yourselves is something that no med student or med student’s spouse should forget to do. I’m still no expert, but as the spouse of an MS2, I’m much more prepared than I was at the start of Will’s first year of med school. These are some of the items I (and we) have found that make our lives easier. Maybe my next addition will be Medical Terms for Dummies, although I pretty much learn those along the way ;)
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