Dating can be a cruel world. Tinder, Bumble, Happn – I have lost count of all the dating apps now available. Even once you’ve chosen one, what information do you include and how do you pick which photos you use? Should I mention the fact that I’m a doctor? Should I include a photo in my scrubs (highly sexy, I know) to highlight this point? Or should I hide this information and hope they don’t ask until at least the first date?
On the new series of Love Island, the doctor Alex is finding the “love” part rather hard to come by. There are probably other factors at play than his profession (his muscles aren’t as, well, mountainous as the other men on the show), but no one came forward to couple up with him – and contestant Hayley flinched from kissing him during a game.
“I just find it a bit awkward with Alex,” she said afterwards. “I think that might be because he’s got a professional job or something.”
The bane of any doctor’s life is answering that inevitable first date question of “So what do you do?” – an invitation, apparently, to hear people’s medical woes.
While I’m more than happy to give advice to friends and family (they supported me through med school and are somehow still friends with me despite numerous missed social occasions, it’s really the least I can do), it can be annoying from new acquaintances in social situations – and down-right awkward on a date.
I once had a guy ask me to look at a rash on his chest, and I don’t think it was just an excuse to take his top off. Either way it was a big turn-off and I politely declined a second date.
On the flipside, I often get the “Wow that’s amazing, I could never do that!” response to being a doctor. While this may appeal to certain doctors and their egos (the stereotypical arrogant surgeon for example), most of us feel a bit awkward about this.
Yes, we work hard and we spent a rather ridiculous amount of time at university – but it’s still just a job, and most of us aren’t looking to impress, or intimidate, a potential date with it. And the majority of it really isn’t as glamorous as House or ER or Grey’s Anatomy make out.
There can also be a fine line to tread with medic humour. It’s almost a survival tactic that we quickly learn either in the last throes of medical school or when thrown in at the deep end in our first jobs as a foundation doctor.
Medic humour can be very dark and very non-PC. While this may be acceptable and even necessary as a way of venting among colleagues and other medics, is it appropriate date material? Probably not. But what if your only jokes and witty anecdotes revolve around patient stories or something entertaining a colleague did?
We spend so much time at work, and with other medics, that it can be hard to shake this chat off, and also hard to find other more suitable topics of discussion. Popular culture and the latest sporting news are not things I generally keep up with and can lead to some awkward long silences on my behalf when brought up on a date. Perhaps this is partly why Alex is struggling to bond on the programme.
Antisocial hours are an intrinsic part of being a doctor, and even those lucky enough to escape into GP land will have had to put in the gruelling hours and countless missed birthdays, weekends and evening events in order to get there.
And if you choose a specialty such as Emergency – like the case with Alex, who’s an A&E doctor – or Paediatrics, you may as well kiss goodbye to any kind of “normal” social life.
This is a big obstacle to dating. For example, I’m working every weekend this month, and two of those are sets of night shifts. While I would quite like to schedule a date this month, a midweek brunch date is apparently less feasible with someone non-medical.
It’s no surprise then that I find I gravitate towards other doctors, a fact easily highlighted by the number of doctor couples within the profession. That initial shared ground is an easy conversation starter – I’m embarrassingly non-plussed about a lot of non-medical careers but can talk for hours with another doctor about what area they work in now, where they’ve worked before, what they think of such-and-such a hospital.
Anyone non-medical who has had the misfortune of hanging out with a bunch of doctors will know we love talking about medicine.
After a couple of years in the NHS, including on A&E, I’ve spent the last 18 months working in Australia and rather naively hoped that with the better hours and pay, I would also have a better dating life. This has disappointingly not been the case. I could try and pass off my multiple failed attempts at dating Aussies as an intrinsic cultural difference – Brits do have a rather unique sense of humour that the more laidback Australians seem to find bemusing.
However, the reality is that the same problems that plagued my love life in the UK are just as present here. I may work better hours but it is still majority shift work and my rare evenings and weekends off are more precious than I care to admit. Given the choice between hanging out with friends or even having a relaxing night in versus a date with a nigh-on stranger… it’s all too easy to opt for one of the first two options.