Friday, March 28, 2014

Life of a Houseman

I could not even begin to describe how my life has changed tremendously for the last one month. My current and previous work is nothing like one another. I used to work 40 hours a week, from 9 to 5 in Geneva. Even if I go to the gym in the WHO building, it still counts as working hours. Even my 30 minutes nap after lunch in the 'Quiet Room'! Little could I imagine back then that I would now be working more than 85 hours a week, waking up at 4.30 AM everyday, drive 20 kilometres to work, arrive around 5.30 to 6 AM, and work non-stop till 8 PM. That's more than 12 hours a day.

Life back when I was a medical student was even much easier. We go to lectures and teachings. No class? Go to sleep. It is true that working as a doctor and studying medicine is a whole different thing. Medical school is all about medicine. Full stop. Working as a doctor, half of the time involves non-medical stuff like dealing with patient's family, implant company agents, police officers, wardens in the nearby Sungai Buloh prison, lawyers, private investigators, SOCSO agents, and once I have to even deal with SYABAS, a water supplier for one of their employees who they believe is faking or exaggerating his illness. It's a crazy world, this doctoring world.

I was overwhelmed in the beginning, thinking 'what the heck, is this really what I want to do all my life?'. During the start of my work, when I was tagging, the job seems so daunting that I wake up with anxiety and nausea everyday. As taggers, we have to know all 28 cases in the ward, expected to present them at any time during ward rounds, without looking or refering to any notes. The task was gargantuan, and we have to stay until 10 PM everyday, which is the earliest (usually we won't be able to go back until 11 or 12 PM because of more work), and come to work at 6 the next day. That left like 3 to 4 hours of sleep everyday. I did that for 19 days, until I finally got off-tag. It was really a tough time for me.

But I always believe that we can get used to anything if we expose our brain long enough to the new challenges. Our brain rebels when there is too much new information coming in all at the same time. It needs time to digest things. It has been a month and my brain has started to accept this new working environment. I no longer wake up feeling anxious and nauseous. I begin to take more responsibilities, managing clinics, scrubbing in to operating theatres, attaching to the emergency department. Work is still stressful especially in the morning before ward rounds, but the stress goes downtrend as the day goes to an end. At the end of the day, nothing beats the feeling of driving back home feeling good you had a patient's sugar or blood level controlled just by putting a sign on the drug prescription, you sutured close a gaping wound nicely and stopped the bleeding, you nicely trimmed some fingers that went into a cutting machine, and inserted a steel rod into the legs to temporarily help with fractures. It is a truly satisfying feeling.

I no longer have doubts if this is what I will be doing all my life. It can be fun, but we can't see it while we are in the middle of the hectic working hours. It is time like this current moment, where I have a half-day off and working night shift tomorrow, that I can take a step back, think about what I did for the past one month, remember all the things I went through, that I feel it is worth being a doctor. For me, if a work is too much it becomes stressful. But if a work is too little it becomes depressing. I remember times where I had a whole day to write just a single report, but it becomes so depressing because I kinda have a mental block when there is too much time and I don't know what to write. I start writing 2 hours before the deadline in the end and feel depressed again feeling that I could have done a better job. Working in the hospital, you never have free time to be depressed about work. It's stressful, but it's a positive stress. All the work is done in the ward, when you go back you pass over your patients to the night shift doctor, and you go home not needing to worry to much because you believe your patient is in the safe hands of your colleague.

So in the end...yeah, being a houseman doctor isn't so bad. The only thing I still resent is the inability to confirm and convince to your non-medical friends when you will be free. I have always been asked for appointments and meet-ups for either HBB or just catching up. It is so hard to confirm a date where you'll be free because we work on weekends and our day-off can fall on any day and changes every week. It sucks, but otherwise, life's OK ;)

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