Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Spouse's Guide to Surviving Physical Therapy School

Y'all are in for a special treat today! It's graduation week, which means it's time for a little reflection. One thing I've been thinking about lately is what advice I would give to a married couple about to go through Physical Therapy school. Is there anything Kyle and I did that particularly kept our marriage sane over the past three years? Is there anything we wished we did differently? I remember moving to Augusta three years ago with these rose-colored glasses on and ZERO idea of what to expect, and I think Kyle and I would have benefited from talking with someone who had been there, done that.

So instead of hearing just my thoughts on the subject, I extended these questions to my fellow PT wives and boy did they have lots to say! I think their advice is great advice for ANY marriage, whether your better half is going through professional school or not. I think these are timely words of wisdom even for seriously dating and engaged couples to tuck away for the future. I definitely learned a few things myself! So without further ado...

First up, we have the lovely Amanda. Amanda and her husband Sam were (and still are) some of our closest friends throughout PT school. They are fellow Georgia grads (and hiking buddies!) and have a Weimaraner named Sterling, so naturally we hit it off with them right away. Amanda blogs over at Genuine Greavu, so be sure to stop by and say hi! Take it away, Amanda!

If I could sit down with a newly married or engaged wife of an incoming PT student I would tell her to R-U-N while she still can. Just kidding. It wasn't that bad. I'll admit there are some definite sacrifices for getting married and then putting a spouse through grad school or med school. The biggest of course is finances. While other young couples have two incomes, you're more than likely acquiring more and more debt. You'll watch your friends buy houses and start families while you support your spouse both mentally, emotionally and financially. It's tough sometimes to delay for someone else's career or dreams, but it's kind of a first lesson in marriage. So what are some quick things I'd recommend to keep you both sane? Glad you asked. Here you go:

Try not to be jealous of classmates, school work, study time, etc that take time away from you.

Establish clear expectations for when study sessions, group projects, etc should take place (i.e. not during dinner). But remember to be flexible and offer grace. Classmates are more than likely not in the same situation and not everyone is sensitive to a married couple's commitments.

Discover ways that the spouse in school can unwind or de-stress WITH you. You'll be looking for time together. If you can make yourself a calming presence or fun escape, you'll find that you spend more quality time together.

Make an effort to get to know other engaged or married couples. You'll appreciate someone who "understands."

Show as much interest in the current subjects as you can muster. It will help for a few reasons. One, it's often all the spouse in school will want to talk about. Two, it will help you know pronunciation and have a general idea when you help study. And lastly, it will allow you to nod in the correct moments and prevent embarrassing comments when you get together as a group, because believe me, that's ALL they'll talk about.

Next we have the hilarious and beautiful Courtney. Courtney and her husband, Nolton, are what you might call the marriage dream team. They have huge hearts for the Lord, they are super hilarious, and are just so darn cute together. I don't think we had a time hanging out with them where we weren't cracking up. So here's what Courtney had to say about being married during PT school.

I'm not sure how much advice I have to offer but my first thought is just that it's good to hang out with everyone from school or other friends when you want to, but always be comfortable just spending time together and turning down an invitation if life has been too busy. Also get involved with a good church that supports newlyweds - it helped us so much!

Next we have sweet Hannah. Hannah actually got married about halfway through PT school, so major props to her for being able to juggle the stress of school and wedding planning at the same time! If anyone knows what it's like to be a true newlywed during PT school, it's this gal. So here's Hannah's advice on navigating those first few years of marriage.

The number one tip Brandon and I both would give to a couple about to go through PT school is to spend as much free time as you can together. It was a lot harder for Brandon and I, simply because he works night shift. So we basically never saw each other except when we was off rotation. Every off rotation, whether it be during the week or on the weekend, we would find something to do together (go to the movies, go to the park, ride our bikes)...whatever it may be. Honestly, the whole night shift thing was probably a blessing in disguise because every day/night that he was off, I would completely put off any school work that I had. Oops. So the nights he was working, I was able to completely devote my time to school. As stressful and terrible as I thought our messed up schedules were, it all worked out in the end.

And of course you should always worship TOGETHER. I wish that Brandon and I were able to do this on a regular basis, but unfortunately it's very rare. I would have LOVED to join a bible study group together while we were here. Now we are just praying that we can both find jobs with normal schedules. 

Finally, we have the beautiful and wise Laura. Laura's husband, Jason, actually graduated PT school a year ahead of Kyle, so they have been a great resource of support and advice for us throughout our time in Augusta. Laura and Jason are the type of people who will go above and beyond what you ask of them, and are all around GREAT friends. Their daughter, Lucy, is about to have her first birthday in June (I can't believe it!!), and Laura blogs about her experience as a mother here. Be sure to stop by and say hi to her too! Take it away, Laura!

Share the workload - we quickly realized that we both needed to pitch in when it came to work around the house in order to stay at peace with each other. To make things easier, we each chose certain chores that were our responsibility. I did the laundry and put clutter away and Jason always did the dishes. For the less often chores, Jason did most of the yard work and I cleaned the bathrooms and deep cleaned. This really helped us week in, week out. For us, Jason actually ended up with more free time than me. So he took on more than half of the work around the house. He used some of the free time that school gave him (such as extra weeks off) to do bigger home projects like staining the deck, raking the yard, etc.

One is not more important than another and vice versa - It is easy sometimes for the working person to feel like their job is more important because they are making money, however this is simply not true. The working person needs to realize that the PT Student is working just as hard at school as they would at a job (hopefully this is true!), and that school is a necessary first step to get to a job/career that they love and will make money in the future. The PT Student needs to realize that work is not the same as school and sometimes there is that extra level of pressure on the working person to keep a job, do well, deal with work stress, bosses, etc. It is super important for each of you to value what the other one is doing and realize how hard your spouse is working, and thank them for it.

The PT student needs to treat school as a job - this was really important for our time together. During school, 99% of the time, Jason would finish his homework and studying before 5 pm so that we could spend evenings and weekends together. Of course there are exceptions to this, like when he was studying for his board exam.

Realize it is not going to last forever and the end goal is something your spouse will love as a career - sometimes it feels like 3 years is an eternity and will never end. It is tempting sometimes to compare your lives to other couples where both of them work. However, just keep remembering that the 3 years will fly by, it will be a 3 years that you will remember forever. For us it is the 3 years where it was just the two of us, without any kids. It is a special time, so enjoy it!

Be thankful you're not in medical school - this is just a funny one, but true. Sometimes when I felt sorry for myself that my husband had to study on the weekends (which he did sometimes do for large tests) I would remind myself that it is a lot harder for medical school students and their spouses. At least we don't have to go through residency. Just take a moment and be thankful - that helped me!

Amen to not having a husband in med school! Did these ladies do an AMAZING job of bringing the advice or what?! I don't think I need to add anything in that department, but I do have a piece of advice of a different sort...

I want to encourage anyone thinking about PT school to seriously consider it. It will be one of the hardest things you ever do since it is a doctoral level degree, but it will also be one of the best decisions you ever make. The reward far outweighs the hard work, as the demand for Physical Therapists is really high right now and will only continue to grow. Kyle accepted a job back in March and he will not start working until after he takes the board exam in August. Talk about demand and return for your investment! My cousin and my little brother are both following in Kyle's footsteps in going to PT school, and we couldn't be more excited for them. 

So with all of that said, thank you for sticking around for this novel of a post! I hope it was enlightening for all you lovely readers, no matter what stage of life you are in. And speaking of stages, the graduation festivities begin tomorrow with the hooding ceremony, then continue on Friday with the class brunch and big school-wide graduation. Lots of pomp and circumstance, but I think Kyle and his classmates deserve it! Congratulations DPT Class of 2013! 


  1. Aww, I love it! Great idea Lesley Anne!

  2. Great advice! My husband just started PT school in Miami back in May... we're almost done with the first semester - woo! Hope boards go well for your husband, as well as the new job! :)

    1. Thanks Kelly! We should find out the board exam results on Wednesday - it's all in God's hands! And congratulations to you and your husband! Soak in these next three years - it will go by faster than you think. :)

  3. Lesley Anne,
    I can't thank you enough for posting this article. I'm just beginning the walk down the road of PT school with my hubby (also Kyle!) - he begins in May. It was a struggle for us to even be accepted, as like you mentioned, the career is on the rise and the competition is fierce. We went through rejection two years in a row before finally facing the truth that we weren't giving it entirely over to God. When we recommitted with His hands at the wheel and not ours, the door was opened and we are moving to San Diego, soon! It's overwhelming to think about all the changes that will be coming and we pray about it a lot and try to plan for the ways in which we will work to manage marriage, school, job and all that. I'm just so thankful to know that I'm not alone in thinking that a PT Wife is a real thing! <3 Hoping as it's a year later, your husband is thriving at his job and you two are enjoying life post-school!

  4. Thanks for the post. I am dating a girl who just started PT school and oh boy at least I know what to expect now. :p

  5. Thank you so much for posting this! I am starting DPT school in May and my husband and I have been married for 2 years, dating for 9.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this! I am starting DPT school in May and my husband and I have been married for 2 years, dating for 9.



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