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Married to the job – on being a doctor’s spouse – Part 1

Doctor's spouse - Part 1

Being in a relationship with a doctor isn’t always the easiest gig in the world. Sometimes you see your partner, sometimes you don’t. There’s the terror of exams, and the inevitable on-call to contend with. In this two-part feature, we interview two medical spouses to see what it’s like ‘marrying the job’, and the challenges and triumphs that doctor’s partners face. In Part 1, we talk to Kenna Jefferson, the partner of a new ENT Surgeon.

Your name and where you’re from?

Kenna Jefferson.  Originally from Turlock, which is a small town in Central California.

How long have you been with your partner?

I met him one dark night 15 years ago and we have been married for 11 years.

How did you meet?

My husband is from Perth but went to medical school in Dublin, Ireland at RCSI. I met him in London where he was working for the summer after his first year of medical school.  I was backpacking around Europe for 5 weeks with my best friend Robin.  We met in a nightclub called “Jerusalem”.

Was he a doctor when you met?

Ha! He’d made it through the first year of medical school.  I didn’t hold out hope for him and promised him that if he ended up graduating with a medical degree I would attend his graduation…and I did.

What is your partner’s specialty?

He has just become a fully qualified ENT.

What stage of training is he in now?

We head off to Cincinnati, Ohio, USA in 5 weeks for an 18 month paediatric fellowship

What were your thoughts about the life of a doctor before you were married to one?

I had NO IDEA how difficult it would be.

What is your occupation?

I was in the US Navy for 6 years before we came to Sydney to continue his training and now I’m a stay at home mum.


We have 3 children.  My daughter is 7 and two sons ages 5 and 4

How many times have you moved because of your partner’s work?

8 times in 7 years. 9th time will be to the US in a few weeks!

What has been the most difficult part about being married to a doctor?

The gruelling schedule; the work, on call and study of the training doctor are rough on family life.

Was there a particular part of their training, or moment that was the most difficult for you/your family?

Without a doubt the time leading up to the fellowship exam. It was painful for everyone.  I ended up taking the kids to my parents in California for 6 weeks while he studied.  It was so hard to watch him suffer knowing that there’s absolutely nothing I could do to help.  The kids had a hard time too although they won’t remember it in the long run.

What have you enjoyed?  

While the moves have been totally stressful, I’ve met some great people along the way and have friends around the state. The journey that my family went on inspired me to start the ‘Australian Doctor’s Spouse Network’ with Amanda Low which has been so rewarding. We are hoping to help many junior families through the tough years.

What advice would you offer someone else just starting in your situation?  

Don’t let resentment build up.  Communicate and spend time together whenever it’s possible.  Please know that it will get better- I promise!

What resources do you recommend?

ADSN of course.  We have a  Facebook page, Facebook group and website.  We write and post about all things related to the medical spouse in Australia. It’s also a great way to meet other medical spouses in your area which means you’ll have someone to hang out with on the weekends when your partner is working and regular people are having family time!  There is a great US website dedicated to nurturing medical marriages that is full of great advice- http://www.kimblackham.com/nurturing-medical-marriages/.

In the next part of this series, we talk to Ben Wilkes – the partner of a haematologist.

Working with a medical recruitment agency like Beat Medical to find your next medical position or specialist locum job can help streamline the process, whether it’s between other jobs and training placements, or a permanent move at the end of training.


To avoid mistakes in your next job application, download ‘7 Obvious Mistakes to Avoid on Your Medical CV’ (+ Bonus Interview Guide) today 


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