Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Idiot's Guide to Surviving Housemanship

What's with all this ruckus about houseman complaining about their housemanship training in the press, and MOs and specialists complaining about houseman in return? I admit housemanship can be challenging, especially for those who just started. I also admit that during my first posting even I harbor the thoughts of quitting. But I didn't, and I have never regretted the decision to stay on while some of my colleagues resigned. Almost half-way though my housemanship journey, I think I'd like to share a few things I've learned for the past one year. I call it the ' Idiot's Guide to Surviving Housemanship', inspired by the 'Idiot's Guide to' series:

1. Don't take negative comments and scoldings personally.
You see, we live in an age where houseman are in excess. Every time a specialist or an MO scolds you, chances are, you are not the first one and unlikely to be the last one. Imagine, nowadays there can be up to 30 to 40 houseman in a certain department at a particular time. Without extension, every houseman will rotate in each department every 4 months. A specialist or an MO on average have to deal with on average 120 houseman per year. So there is a very high chance that whatever mistake you did has already been done by another houseman before, and the scolding is nothing directed solely for you. They just want you to improve, just like others who made it before you. So don't take things personal, they might have repeated the same comment and scolding for the 100th time. So don't go missing in action (MIA) everytime you get a bad scolding. It's nothing personal.

2. MOs and specialist are not out there 'to get you'.
Sometimes when we get real bad scoldings, we tend to think the MO or specialist has this certain mission to wipe us off this earth. We have this feeling that every time they feel our presence, they are there to get us, and when we are not around, they think of ways to make our life miserable. The truth is, specialists and MOs are human with their own personal life too. When we couldn't sleep at night thinking about how this particular MO will mess around with us during tomorrow's ward round, he or she might just be thinking about their next holiday destination, about their Master's application, or about their wedding plans. They don't have time to think about how to mess around with you. There are just better things to think about before bedtime. So don't waste your time at home worrying about tomorrow, instead be happy and spend time with your family and friends, like what your MO is doing.

3. Forget that you were ever on the Dean's list, a 4-flat student or a batch leader during your medical school days
While your achievements are good for motivation, as a houseman, you have to forget about all those because you start your journey just like everybody else, no more, no less. Because no matter how good you were, housemanship is a process of learning, and sooner or later you will tend to make mistakes. What matters is whether you learn from it or not. Many straight-A, 4-flat students just could not take housemanship and quit because they are not used to or have never tasted failure before. They are more vulnerable when faced with harsh scoldings, because they used to be so perfect in medical school. The less smarter ones are the resilient and tough ones because they have faced so many failures and scoldings during medical school that they feel like it is just another day in the life of a medical profession. So no matter how good or bad you were in medical school, forget about all that and start anew. An MD and MBBS is just a starting point. Now you are as dumb as everyone else and everyone else is as smart as you

4. Time is gold, steal it
Don't be an idiot and hold your pee when things get too busy. Volunteer to send the bloods to the laboratory, and on the way back, stop by the loo. Contrary to public belief, doctors are not THAT busy all the time. There are always time when patients are less, workload is low, long interval in between patients. Learn to take a nap wherever you are, just make sure your phone is on full-blast volume. Learn to sleep anywhere EXCEPT where there is no line reception. The most important thing is to make yourself reachable. You're considered MIA when your colleagues and staff nurses couldn't reach you. I know many would not agree on taking a nap during working hours, but personally I think that if I really have no work to do, it is better to take a refreshing power nap than being physically and mentally exhausted, endangering the lives of patients.

5. Your colleague will exaggerate everything
Sometimes when you did a mistake, and then the next thing you have your colleague texting you asking "Hey what happened today, I heard this specialist was furious at you for bla bla bla". Unless you heard from the specialist yourself, usually the story is exaggerated as it goes through the grapevine from one person to another. Things are not always as bad as people tell you. This is another case of 'nothing is personal'. Others might have done a worse mistake than you, and what matters is not giving up, going MIA, but instead take it as a lesson learned.

6. Everybody has their own problems to remember
One of the worst thing that could happen to a houseman is a public scolding, in front of your colleagues, patients, staff nurses, MA, Radicare people, lol. But that, too, shall pass with time. Don't get too depressed and go MIA, because everybody gets their own dose of scoldings and no one has the time to remember yours. Don't believe me? Try telling one of your colleagues: "Man, I still feel really bad for the stupid thing I dad in the OT last month". Chances are, they will reply with "Uh, which stupid thing again?". "You know, when I threw the fibreoptic scope into the yellow bin and the surgeon was so furious I had to go down to Radicare and literally scourge through the piles of waste to retrieve it?". "Oh, that one!". Point is, no matter how stupid your mistake is, in a month you will have to trigger others to remember it. So just learn from mistakes, and don't worry about what others think. In the medical profession, everybody has their own problems to think of, they won't remember yours.

7. You don't get extended because your boss hates you
In the extreme case of being extended, don't feel so down too. You don't get extended because your superior hates you. If they really do hate you, they would have let you pass as soon as possible because they want you out of the department and never want to see your face again. An extension really means that they feel that there is something inadequate in you, and you might need more time to learn it.
So fellow houseman, these are my 50 cents. Just remember, there are thousands of us, each and everyone with our own struggles, and we are all in this together. You are not alone. So cheer up, stop complaining too much, to the press especially, and may us all be great doctors for the better health care of our nation.


Anis Basirah said...

Feeling so relieved! Even I'm not an HO or HO to be, your 50 cents relieved me.

It is better to mind our own matters. Focus to what can improve our skills, competencies, etc. What we get is usually a reflection of what we think. Not to forget, our intention should be always for Him. Thus, our struggles will also help us in akheerah.☺

awin hashim said...

i'm not a doctor. i'm a lawyer. but as i read your "idiot's guide", for some unexplained reasons i nodded most of the time, swallowing your advice, as if i am one of those houseman.

u r so positive. i like that.

Anonymous said...


ieda iedana said...

Don't give up on urselves dear future MO...

Always remember there are others who look upon u. We(I particularly) never give up on u (yet) on medical advice etc.

In hospital, Doctors are like mother, while we patients are like children to you.

Give up on urself, meaning giving up on us too...

I pray that all houseman out there, to keep strong, keep going....

Anonymous said...

Thank you ! ^^

hdr said...

Agreed..a bit of scolding never kill anyone

Iona Khong said...

this is gold and should be engraved in stone and mounted at the entrance of ever HO hostel.

Zara haddad said...

Cool article!
-med student-

blurr said...

Thanks for excellent essay. Myself an M.O.... scolding HO is only to correct you guys . Sometimes we scolds because HO slows down daily works ..thats all.

Ashraful Nil said...

I bought some candies with your 50 cents. Tengs... 😉😉😉

nis said...

as a houseman myself, i agree with what u wrote.. sometimes, just accept that u will get scolded not for your own fault but just because u happen to be there at the wrong time and place. just swallow it and forget about it.. if it is due to your fault, then learn not to repeat the same mistakes. accept that not everyone is the same, there will be many kinds of patients, mo, specialists, colleagues, that have different attitudes and way of thinking that u might not agree with. if other ppl are difficult, just be patient with them. the reward will be sweet insyaAllah :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. Everyone scolds to correct HO only.. but if u dont think so, just swallow it and move on. In fact, after some time in training, u learn to learn from ur mistakes and not taking the scoldings to the heart, but profesionally.

And don't ever, ever complaint to the press or your parents... some parents prob do not understand the nature of this job.. if u need to talk to someone.. talk to your colleagues. . Or trusted MO..

-new MO-

Anonymous said...

Love ur profession guys..I've appreciated all the superiors taught me when I'm still fresh..absolutely nothing to do with them..all inside u..��

Anonymous said...

U know what...I always remember the names of HOs at 2 extreme ends!! If I cant recall urs,u r saved!! ������

lee woo said...

I try not to get involved in the business of prediction. It's a quick way to look like an idiot. See the link below for more info.


Nathalie Uy said...

When you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe, thats when you will be successful.

Anonymous said...

While this article is positive and uplifting, it misses the point. This article also does something equally damaging. It dismisses the struggle of many housemen who have come forward to speak about their negative experience. It has painted them in the light of "weak and complaining too much" and gives a wrong perception to the public that the houseman who have complained to the press are exaggerating their stories.
Do you honestly think that the housemen who have complained about their situation have not tried everything that you have mentioned? Most are stuck in terrible situations. Almost everyone has it tough in housemanship but if you are a doctor then you should know that just as many of us have it worse than the rest sometimes. Call it luck. Call it circumstances.
Anyway we should be learning from our past. We know that the previous generations withstood tougher times as they claimed because they had to keep it all in and even if they had complained, nothing could have been done.
Now, we can do something about it. With social media, we can bring to light all the sufferings in hopes to alter the environment bit by bit for the future generation. Support the ones who came forward to complain. It takes guts to do that knowing that they will be targeted by the higher ups in the department if they came forward. Stand behind housemen and medical officers and whoever who need their voices heard. Support them. Dont shame them. Shame the people who turned the medical profession into a toxic one. With things like this being brought to social media, at least some action can be taken unlike before. If our working environment was like a family, who wouldnt like coming to work or even staying overtime ? Who would even think of quitting? Who would think of complaining ?
The previous generations had it tough but that doesnt mean that the future generation need to be subjected to the same things. Just because they once suffered, doesnt mean we have to suffer like that too especially in a modern age where some things can be corrected via press or social media and bringing attention to our matters via politicians.

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