By Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj ( alumni house officer (HO) ; General Hospital KL - August 1991 to July 1992)
Tip no. 1 - Set your intention right. It's neither about the money, the highly respected position and the power. It is about PUBLIC SERVITUDE, serving those who are in need of healthcare. Only after you have served well, then only you could deserve the rewards, privileges and rights allocated for medical practitioners! Welcome on board!
Tip no. 2 - Have the right attitudes. Being the most junior officer in the team, you really have a lot to catch up and learn. Never pretend that you know all. Never hesitate to admit that you do not know, to ask questions and assistance. Respect those who are more experienced than you. People with the right attitudes are welcome wherever they go, always...all the time!
Tip no. 3 - Put on your best smile and outstanding manners. Greet everyone with a cheerful salam. No matter how busy you are, don't forget to move your temporo-mandibular joints and carve out a big smile. It will stimulate a fountain of endorphins in your neuron synapses, and aha...the feel-good feeling will set in. Don't believe this? Just try....just do it.
Tip no. 4 - Work extra hard to convince people that you are reliable, responsible, accountable and able to complete tasks and meet expectations - within the first two weeks! Once people know you're committed, you'll gain their trust, respect & cooperation. Just mark my words!
Tip no.5 - Refresh your inner self with daily, constant and effective spiritual input. For Muslim, don't ever neglect your 5 times daily prayers, no matter how busy you are. You really need that 5 -10 minutes regular breaks. It acts as a cooling oasis for you to rejuvenate.
Tip no.6 : Mend your bruised heart and dented self-esteem, quickly and effectively - each time you received unpleasant reminders of your incompetency & shortcoming from your seniors. It's a part and parcel of the job. Admit your mistakes, but PLEASE, try hard not to repeat them. To err is human, but to keep doing the same error is a major blunder!
Tip no.7 : Keep in touch with your loved ones - parents, spouses, close friends, teachers etc. Don't shut out your life, which mainly linger around your wards, call roster and private room now. There is more to life out there than just work or crashing into bed to recover from sleep deprivation.
Tip no.8 : Make friend with the nurses. Never ever be their enemy. Life would be much easier if you know how to win their hearts. Dr Meena (Paeds MO) gave me this very precious advice : Harlina, be nice to these people (nurses). They will decide whether you will have your meals or not during your calls. Yesss, I later realized how true that advice was!
Tip no.9 : Forgive those who raised their voices at you. They might be angry patients, stressed-up MOs, overwhelmed colleagues, frustrated consultants, irritated nurses etc. Nobody had ever shouted at you before,eh? Being a HO, anticipate your first experience here. Forgive them, forget them and live on. After all, we're all just humans living in the same pressure cooker!
Tip no.10 - Thank God for the honour of being His instrument/tool of Mercy to mankind. A great opportunity is at your doorstep to catapult your good self to be bigger than life. Grab that opportunity and seize the golden moments. Nothing compares with the feeling of satisfaction whenever your patients & relatives say : Thank you, Doc !
Tip no. 11 - Handle yourself well when dealing with difficult people. Feeling victimized, bullied and discriminated? After reflecting on yourself, I suggest you pluck some courage to meet face-to-face. Clarify, admit your mistakes and make peace. InsyaAllah, things will be fine.
Tip no. 12 - Treat your patients as if they are your own parents/relatives. Just as how you would like any doctor to treat your parents, that's exactly how you should treat your patients now. Remember, what comes around, goes around! Motivate your patients always, you'll feel the positive energy seeping into you too.
Tip no. 13 - Express your love to your spouse everyday, using his/her love language. Let him/her know how much his/her support & understanding means to you. Share your ups and downs, laughter & tears. Thank Allah everyday for sending you this special person. Those who are still unmarried, what's keeping you, guys?
Tip no. 14 - Be sincere in treating your patients, be gentle and caring. Control your anger and frustration, avoid explosive emotional outburst in front of your patients. If you really need to release the steam, do it in the washroom with the tap running (peace, Mother Earth)- I consider that as an effective form of anger management!
Tip no. 15 - Keep abreast with what's happening around you - medical & non-medical, locally and globally. Read the papers, journals & magazines, listen to the news bulletin, engage in general discussions. Have your own opinions. You're a doctor now! People wanna know what's going on in your brain.
Tip no. 16 - Always extend a helping hand to your peers/colleague HOs.That's the only way to ensure help comes your way the next time you desperately need one. Less of `Me, Myself & I', please! More of `We & Us' now. Be a sporting team member, will ya!
Tip no. 17 - Make effort to remember names esp. your patients'. Address them appropriately. If you're greeting them for the first time, use `Encik, Cik & Puan' instead of `PakCik, Makcik, Pak Aji, Apek, Aci, Akak, Abang, Adik'. Make quick glances at the patient's file and pronounce his/her full name clearly. Just see how impressed they will be!
Tip no. 18 - Endure the disappointment when you discover the realities of the system. Witnessing unprofessional, unethical conducts - far from what you learnt in med schools? Feeling upset, angry, demoralized? Good, at least I can count on you to be a future committed agent of change!
Tip no. 19 - Learn to read your consultants'/specialists' minds. What do they want from a HO? Dedication, commitment, eagerness to learn, willingness to be corrected & guided. Give them those, and they won't make your life miserable.
Tip no. 20 - Keep your room in the HO quarter clean, tidy & cheerful! Hire a keeper if you could afford one.Throw away all the rotten left-overs. Buy an air-freshener & some flowers. Pull up the curtains, let the sunlight in. It's supposed to be a bedroom, not a cave!
Tip no. 21 - Spend your salary wisely. Share your first paycheck with your loved ones. Pay up your debts / credit card bills. Recall your financial planning lessons. Avoid weekly shopping mall rounds. Window shop with your stomach full, you'll be able to control the cravings.
Tip no. 22 - Push the `pause' button, get out for some fresh air, watch the sunrise/sunset. Reflect & contemplate. Remember, you just a small part of a very complex design. Put your perspectives back on track. Inhale & exhale - be grateful to Allah for everything you have.
Tip no. 23 - Volunteer to help arranging the call roster.Experience the pain in accomodating all requests and dealing with unhappy colleagues who could not get their wishes. Best time to learn how to give & take here!
Tip no. 24 - Be friendly & mix around with everyone. Do not reserve your greetings only for the bosses & VIPs. Greet the staff nurses, PKs, cleaners, security guards, gardeners etc. Drink your coffee at the pantry. Stop being choosy & selective. Snobs are lonely people.
Tip no. 25 - Pray for your patients' well-being. Support their emotional & spiritual needs. Listen to their stories. Don't be afraid to be close to your patients. You will learn how to detach your emotions & rational thinking while looking after patients - so you'll remain objective and professional.Learn the balance to keep the ideal distance between you and the patients.
Tip no. 26 - Surprise those who look down upon you by exceeding their expectations. Impress those who think highly of you by exceeding their expectation too. Whatever it is, do your level best. Be brave to take up challenges, be humble enough to ask for assistance and be ready to receive feedback - Recipe for a satisfying career!
Tip no. 27 - Do not allow self pity to consume you now. Never curse yourself. Regretting your life choice of becoming a medical doctor, feeling envious with those friends who are enjoying life, free to do whatever they like? Well, I bet they're envious of YOU too! Just hang on there, persevere & be strong.
Tip no. 28 - Admit your mistakes and try to redeem yourself. It takes a lot of courage, self-esteem and confidence to own up for your shortcomings. At the same time, do not boast around and inflate yourself. If you've really done good, let others acknowledge. You do not have to keep reminding others.
Tip no. 29 - Enhance your medical knowledge thru' revising textbooks/notes ( I hope you haven't sold all textbooks to the juniors in med school!). Get answers to questions ASAP. Experience medicine with accurate knowledge/information, not simply following orders like zombies -without critical thinking.
Tip no. 30 - Let the deaths of your patients serve as gentle reminders/ tazkeerah - that you will also face yours, sooner or later. Treat the dead with respect, whoever they were. Look at those cold, still bodies - now separated from their souls. Pray for them. Convey your condolences to the mourning relatives... they'll appreciate that.
Tip no. 31 - Keep in touch with your emotions, but avoid being overwhelmed. Acknowledge the anger, sadness, frustration, confusion etc. Don't simply brush them off, what more trying to stiffle them! Manage those emotions - you're a human being, not a robot! Ventilate, it helps clearing up your lungs & mind.
Tip no. 32 - Promise yourself that you're gonna make one person smile today! He/she might be your patient, colleague, MO, consultant, staff or spouse & parents at home. Simple rule of life - if you wanna smile, make another person smile, if you wanna be happy, make another person happy, if you want people to appreciate you, appreciate others first!
Tip no. 33 - Commit yourself to life long learning from your surroundings. Your patients are your best teachers. Learn how they handle bad news, manage their emotions, ask for help and accept their fate. Despite all the pain & sorrow, they still tell you how much they appreciate what you've done for them.
Tip no. 34 - Master the negotiation skills, otherwise life can be so inflexible and stressful. No matter how busy, there is definitely time for short prayers, quick meals, brief naps & shower time. The secret? You just have to know how to negotiate with people around you.
Tip no. 35 - Start scribbling your life journal / log book. You're facing new challenges everyday, it's too precious to simply let them pass by without any acknowledgment. Write down the lessons learnt. You will have to share those with others one day.
Tip no. 36 - Agree to disagree - the best way to handle difference of opinions. Speak your mind out, share your concerns & input. Don't be a YES-man all the time, people won't notice that you exist! Learn to say ` I beg to differ' as a subtle way to say `No, I don't agree with you!
Tip no. 37 - Observe your consultant's leadership style closely - emulate what is exemplary, avoid what is not impressive. Do not get involved in power play. Be principle-centred. At times you have to disagree with your friend if he/she is wrong and compliment your enemy if he/she is doing the right thing.
Tip no. 38 - Be professional - what does that mean in simple term? Doing the right thing when nobody is watching! Three elements of professionalism - self reflection, self regulation, self correction. You're expected to give your best and place patient's interest above self! How's that?
Tip no. 39 - Put aside some money for charity. For Muslims, start saving for your Hajj pilgrimage. Make time to open Tabung Haji account, if you haven't done that yet. Share and be generous. Enjoy the feel-good feeling of sharing your wealth with others.
Tip no. 40 - Try to perform one task extra than what is expected of you each day. This is to avoid boredom out of routinized activities. How about volunteering to push the patient's trolley to the OT, buying lunch at the warong for the ward staff or helping a patient to the washroom? Yes, it is not YOUR job, I know. I'm just suggesting. Don't be angry with me!
Tip no. 41 - Ask yourself these questions time and again: `Is this world a better place because I am around?' Do I make a difference?' Human beings need to have answers to those questions. It's our spiritual need : self-actualization in Maslow's Pyramid on Hierarchy of Human Needs.
Tip no. 42 - Always end your conversation with your patients with this magical question : ` Is there anything else that you would like to know from me?' So many questions can spring out from the patient's mouth - worries, concerns and misunderstanding which need immediate attention & clarification. Now you know why so many patients did not turn up for their follow-up visits, eh?
Tip no. 43 - Visualize who you would be in 10 years time. It's not too early to apply creative visualization techniques now. That's the first step towards your success. Come on guys, you shouldn't just barely survive this housemanship, you have to succeed!
Tip no. 44 - Keep holding to your principles, even when nobody seems to bother. Be the only one doing the right thing, tho' everyone else seem to favour & do the opposite. Truth will always prevail, sooner or later. You have to be strong to be a person of substance & integrity.
Tip no. 45 - Be an outstanding team member. Always be helpful, considerate and committed. Be ready to take up leadership role whenever necessary. At the same time, don't be bullied around. Defend your rights, stand strong on your ground. You'll be liked and respected, just mark my words!
Tip. no 46 -Convince yourself that you play a very important role in the healthcare system of the country. You might feel like a slave sometimes, being pushed around, instructed to do this & that. Just bear with those a little while more. You will soon transform to be a matured, experienced medical officer,in-charge of junior HOs who come after you.
Tip. no 47 - Think seriously about starting a family soon. Family commitment pushes you to another level of life and forces you to consider others in making decisions. If you're still looking for the right suitor, keep on praying. If you already have the potential suitor, just proceed making arrangement for a simple wedding. Let's continue with life..do not get stuck forever with your career!
Tip. no 48 - Clear up your mind, clean up your heart regularly and constantly. Spend your holiday in a quiet, peaceful outdoor environment. Keep in touch with nature. Feel the magnificent power of God, the Creator around you. Remind yourself, how small, weak and dependent you are to God's help every second of your life. Pray - O Allah, just don't leave me alone!
Tip. no 49 - Have the courtesy to meet and thank all your consultants, clinical specialists, registrars and MOs whom you have worked with, before finishing your posting in that particular department. Do not just disappear into thin air. Greet them at the corridors, acknowledge their presence.
Tip. no 50 - Get use to the fact that `Once a doctor, always a doctor!'. Internalize life-long learning commitment. You are allowed to add the title `Dr.' to your name, but be aware of the responsibilities that come with it. Prove that you deserve such a noble title to be put in front of your own name!