Housemanship: The beginning


Perhaps it’s time to start talking about it. I’ve been away for some weeks now and to be quite honest, life is an irony at the moment. Everyday is the same and yet so different. The routine that never ceases but the details of the routine very varied.

So, to all the aspiring doctors out there (I know there are plenty of you), I urge you to seriously thoroughly think twice before you move any step closer to that ‘dream’. I realize this is not the first time I’ve warned ye-people-who-desires-to-save-mankind-by-being-doctors.

Let me tell you that right now, at the end of this road of the seemingly gruelling medical school, a more difficult and treacherous terrain is ahead and it is evidently not the fairytale I had envisioned as a child for it to be.

Ended up in the wrong career? Perhaps. I’d agree that it seems so. But read on… think again.

Everyday (YES, and by that, I meant EVERYday including weekends. Yes, that’s right. Saturdays AND Sundays) work starts at 7am at HKL. I do my little rounds in my allocated cubicle which houses from about 10 to 12 patients. My MO-in-charge comes around by 8am. I present to her what I’ve seen and she adds on to what exactly needs to be done for the patient for that day… either more bloods to take, more drugs to give, or the good ol’ word “Discharge”. By about 11 or so, either the Specialist or the Consultant comes round, practically adds even more to the bulk of bloods I’ve already been instructed to take and nags (although I’d admit it’s mostly my fault for being slow..but hey, I’m still ‘new’ and haven’t quite gotten in the motion of things just yet!). My job at that point is to scribble down everything she said into legible writing in the patient’s file, to fetch for prescription paper or radiological investigation request paper or observation charts, etc when they are missing.

Then it’s down to the real work other than just writing. Blood taking. Just today, I really felt like some evil doctor whose job was to go from bed to bed and poke people so that I may take loads of blood for further lab investigations. Not such a great job, especially when your blood taking skills hasn’t quite reached the expert level yet. But I try to make the most out of it. It’s really the time for me to bond with the patients. I’m serious. I try my best to calm them down by striking simple conversations with them (when my own heart’s palpitating in fear of not striking the right vein to suck sufficient amount of blood). It’s during this time, I’ve found so much more about the patient under my care other than the disease details. I’ve learnt about their families, where they live, their grandchildren, their jobs, their dialect, their colleges and their feelings.

By the time all of that is done, it’s already about 1pm or so. Time to write discharge summaries so some of my beds will be emptied in time for the famous afternoons where patients get admitted abundantly, and when I mean abundantly, I actually mean that they come in non-stop like a broken tap which never ceases to trickle. One patient, another sick person, another one more, and another and another. Condition’s so bad that some have to sleep on the bed trolleys in which they were wheeled in with (without a mattress). It’s THAT bad. Alright, maybe not as bad as 10 years ago, where one would hear of stories of patients sleeping along the corridor and on the floor.

Then the cycle repeats it self. Clerking new cases, getting their histories right, looking for the right signs in the physical examination, then here comes the hard part for me, really knowing exactly what investigation to do and what immediate management which needs to be given. I know I should have known all that from medical school, but it’s so completely different when you’re on your own and not exactly knowing what’s the best thing to do. Thankfully MOs come in time to save the day, before Miss Specialist or Mr Consultant comes round by about 4pm. Then it’s MORE bloods to take (usually more than the mornings for some reasons), MORE discharges to write… and by the time I really get all of that done properly, it’s as late as 6, or 8, or even once until 10pm.

Never really had time for a proper lunch at all. Some days, I’m eating my home-packed sandwiches while on the way to the Pathology lab to quickly trace some blood result, or the Radiology Dept to plead for an appointment date for my patient. It’s eating on the go.

Alright, I may have sounded like I’m complaining all the way through, but there have been moments where it feels alright. Some small snapshot of time when the patient says something or does something that somehow makes you feel a little bit appreciated.. and then by the next minute, another patient’s complaining about wanting to go to the toilet and needs you to turn off her IV drip. Swt.

Yes, I realized I’ve been talking too much. It’s been many gruelling days.. I speak like it’s been years, when it’s just been only a few days short of 2 weeks, and even then, I haven’t even started my on-call nights. When that comes, I’ll probably just plop dead. Ugh.


4 thoughts on “Housemanship: The beginning

  1. jon says:

    that’s pretty gruelling stuff (physically at least). i think all jobs tend to start out the same, you do all the repetitive menial stuff with the odd ‘omg wht do i do now…i dont want to ask my senior cos it’s prob a really dumb question and he’ll think i’m slow and stupid’ here and there.

    i was proof-reading financial statements, checking transaction items to bank accounts (i.e ALOT of box ticking), and doing recalculations to check that stuff have been added up correctly – all for 2 weeks too! =p

    just got to see the positives and treat it as a stepping stone to greater greener pastures =)

    God has a reason for where he has placed us and for the things we go through in our lives.

  2. Vincent says:

    Well, the tasks (and many of them not so fun nor interesting) need to be done anyway, and so the privilege usually falls to the junior…

    When you get more senior, then you’ll get juniors to help you do this πŸ™‚

    We miss you in church…hope you can get time off to come back for worship soon πŸ™‚

  3. ivy says:

    my oh my…u guys are scaring me! this whole unescapable-working-as-juniors thing is freaking me out. i dont want to work! lol

    but yea…we miss you! πŸ™‚ and remember we’ll always have your back and will be praying for you.

    “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” Phil 4:13

  4. james ong says:

    wow dr lee… it’s okie… that’s part and parcel of life isn’t it… well i am sure after a year of houseman…when u become MO… things would get better… so you will be fine… look at the bright side.. you are already almost 8% done with ur houseman πŸ˜› hope you are enjoying it.. slowly you will get used to it and u will find joy in those busy time…!!!

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