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A spouse is a husband or wife in relation to their partner.

The Spouse of a Patient

The spouse of a patient can be very helpful, especially if the patient is altered or, for whatever other reason, unable to give a coherent history. The one scenario where this might be true would be in regards to the demented patient and his or her demented spouse.

The Spouse of a Health Care Professional

The spouse of a health care professional, if they're not in health care, can sometimes struggle to understand the battles and wars that come with being a health care professional. In an effort to better understand the lifestyle, it is not uncommon for a spouse to cover their husband or wife's pager and triage consults or admissions.

The role of non-medical spouses in health care is controversial. Some say that they aren't medically trained so aren't qualified to comment on patient care, that this is inappropriate. Other says "F**k it! Everyone's burning out, we can use all the help we can get!" These spouses often defend themselves saying, "We've been married 20 years, I'm pretty sure I can figure it out." No matter which side of the fence you're on, there's no denying this one simple reality: the non-medical spouse of an attending physician triages better than 99% of that attending's residents. There is absolutely no exception to this rule.

For this reason, the role of the spouse in health care has flourished. It is a common scenario where if, for example, a urologist fields a consult and says "I'm awfully busy" and "I can't get to it right now" to follow these phrases with a suggestion of "But I can pass it along to my wife and she can help you out!" The Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is currently drafting new guidelines limiting the work hours of a resident's non-medical spouse to 80 hours per week.[1]

A spouse is always preferable to an aunt or uncle who is a nurse.[2]

Related Reading

- Curbside Consultation

- Family

- Family Meeting

- Father's Day

- Mother's Day


  1. ACGME Limits Resident Work Hours to 168 Per Week (Gomerblog)
  2. RN Relieved to Find Out That Patient’s Family Member’s Aunt is a Nurse (Gomerblog)

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