Thursday, January 10, 2013

Attitudes is all that matters

I read the letter “Stressed from still working long hours” (The Star, Jan 8) with interest. I would not take part in yet another houseman bashing session because I do not think that I deserved such a merit to do so. I am a fresh product of today's housemanship programme.

However the senior doctors whom housemanship training is very much different back then, would understandbly read it with disgust and felt the complaint is unacceptable, given the way they themselves were trained previously, running the entire ward single-handedly when there were only a few of them.

My opinion is that there are certain sacrifices you ought to make to be deserved the title of "Doctor" in front of your surname. Long hours of working is one of them.

Medicine is such an unique field that mere theoretical knowledge attained from medical school would not be sufficient to function well as a doctor. You need practical skills to be good in procedures, seeing more patients to sharpen your judgement and commiting mistakes to learn not to repeat them. All these come from - paradoxically: long hours of working.

Even as medical officers or specialists, you have to come in during weekends, public holidays or in the wee hours of the morning, when the duty calls; what more expected of the most junior in the rank. There is a joke that the reason why we are called House-Officer; we combined both our home and office together.

If you are looking for two days off a week as a doctor, I think probably reconsidering your career pathway would be appropriate. Dont be afraid of making such decisions, I have friends quitting medicine and went into other fields after working for many years because they are not willing to make such sacrifices. Big man make big decisions and the earlier you decide, the better it is for you; if medicine is not the calling.

Expectations are high in our working place, from both the patients and the superiors. New doctors who joined the fraternity would feel the sense of inadequacy and realise the huge disparity between reality and expectation. There will be times when we feel frustrated as the job is not much on practicing medicine but merely doing clerk's and office boys' job. To a certain extent that is a sad truth, but as the job title goes - House-officer; you ought to be capable to do the house-keeping job well and hopefuly at the same time try to garner as much skills and knowledge as possible.

To the senior doctors, current medical practices and landscape is very much different from those days. Just like any other fields, academic inflation is hitting the medical fraternity very hard. The quality of medical graduates varies a lot, from very knowledgeable and well-trained to some really very disappointing ones.

However, I felt it serves very little purpose to dwell too much on the quality, looking at the fact that all of the houseman have degrees whcih are recognised by law. Instead, we should focus all the energy into making sure all the housemen passing each of the departments posting; bringing with them the minimum level of knowledge and skills expected of a general doctor.

 More importantly, nurses as well must play their role well too. It is very saddening when I heard nurses making comments suggesting that housemen are not real doctors yet. There are also stories of housemen being bullied to do nursing tasks. By right, nurses and support staffs especialy the senior ones should facilitate the learning of the young doctors.

We all must bear in mind that this particular young doctor might be the one looking after our family members next time.

And hopefully, this particular young doctor has in him, the willingness and attitude to learn.

That is all that matters.

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