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Home » Discover Rackham » Time Trials

I am not a “typical” graduate student (if such an elusive creature exists). I live over an hour from Ann Arbor, have 3 children, a husband, a dog, and a busy practice as a Nurse Practitioner at University of Michigan Hospital- all while being a Ph.D. student, and current Ph.D. candidate.

I thought I’d show you what a recent Thursday looked like for me:

04:40 Try to wake up. Eventually get dressed, pack breakfast and lunch for myself. Make sure that my 4th grade son has his daily planner signed, snacks for the day ready, and boots packed. Leave wipe board notes to my husband for anything else. Start a load of laundry, so my son has his martial arts uniform for later. Coffee automatically brewing.

05:35 Let the dog, Titan, out and back in. Secretly throw him a snack. Start warming up my car.

05:45 Say goodbye to my husband and 2 younger kids, and my coffee and I are out the door.

07:00 Attend the first half of Urology’s weekly grand rounds conference.

07:30 Meeting with a professor from the School of Pharmacy to discuss potential collaboration on a future project related to my dissertation: looking at stress, cortisol and testosterone in men with chronic genital pain. Agree that a preliminary review of literature is in order, and agree to meet again in 4-6 weeks.

08:40 Back to my office to catch up on phone notes from patients, settle some medication prior authorizations, and finish charts from my clinic yesterday. Finish the coffee I brought from home.

Suzanne sitting in front of the computer

Working in my office with the last of the morning’s coffee.

09:00 See one patient in clinic who needed to reschedule from our regular clinic, do examination to confirm that he is eligible for surgery, do preoperative teaching and book his surgery case.

09:25 Back to my office, more catching up on notes. Check the Canvas site for a class I am auditing and print/download materials I need.

10:00 Teach male genitourinary assessment/introduction to men’s health in the School of Nursing Master’s program.

11:15 Meet with my advisor to discuss my progress, and get reinforcement and reassurance that things are fine, despite my slow recruitment (see my previous blog post!) Discuss my recent accepted paper, then outline how I will start writing my dissertation on a more structured timetable.

13:40 Back home, switch laundry, grab lunch. Check the list of projects that I have running in the background (revision of another journal article I have submitted, work for the class I am auditing, an editorial I have to write, slides to prepare for the next class I teach and the need to make orthodontic appointment for the kids); send some follow-up e-mails to potential authors for Urologic Nursing (I am one of the editorial board members).

14:00 to 16:00 More coffee. Work on reading and organization for dissertation. (Thankfully no pages from clinic with any urgent patient care issues.) One brief 10-minute break to switch more laundry and address any phone notes from patients, via access to the hospital electronic medical record. A check-in text conversation with my Wayne State freshman daughter- she got the package we sent with the new cinnamon bun Oreos. Another snack goes to Titan after I let him out and in again.

Titan the dog looking up for a snack

Titan, ready for a snack.

16:00 Pick up my 2 kids and take them to choi kwang do class. Get gas on the way to their class.

16:45 to 17:35 Read articles while their class is running. One brief phone call with a nurse practitioner friend related to a project we are doing together.

18:00 Back home, switch more laundry, and fortunately my husband is home early and started dinner. Do math homework with my son, confirm that my 7th grade daughter doesn’t need help with hers…and make sure someone feeds Titan.

19:00 Family dinner, load dishwasher, and get kids to bed by 20:00.

20:00 Another 45 minutes of reading before I call it quits for the day.

21:00 TV “date” with my husband to catch up on Homeland.

Now not every Thursday looks like this, and I do try to tightly schedule my time in Ann Arbor so I don’t spend as much time driving back and forth. And in reality many Thursdays are not nearly this busy…but some are. It’s an example of how tightly woven together all my various roles are, and how I switch back and forth among them during the day. This is my 5th year as part of the School of Nursing’s Ph.D. program, so I have most of the daily scheduling down to some sort of art. There’s a lot of planning, and having a slow cooker helps a lot with dinners- and staying hydrated is key. It is a challenge, but it is possible to be, and possible to succeed, as a “nontraditional” student balancing many roles in a given day. As chaotic as a day like this seems on paper, for me, this is the best possible way my role as a doctoral student could have worked: I am able to blend my role as student and clinician, and really see how important clinical and translational research can work. The blending of these roles energizes me in both places, since I know that my work inspires my dissertation, and my dissertation study will help improve the care of my patients.