Materia Medica Malaysiana

November 30, 2006

MMA: Doctors lucky to get housemanship

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:09 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The year- long housemanship can be a steep learning curve. Exhaustion and long hours are par for the course.
But new doctors should look on it as a time to gain valuable experience.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said: “The first year of a doctor’s life can be very difficult, but it is their vocation and they should think positively.
“They are lucky to get such hands-on experience.”
Dr Teoh was asked to comment on a Letter to the Editor published in the New Straits Times yesterday, which said that medical students studying overseas were being discouraged by their seniors to return to practise in Malaysia.
Long hours, and being shouted at and humiliated in front of others were two of the reasons given.
The letter said that housemen have to work their normal shift from 7.30am to 5pm, be on call from 5pm to 7.30am and then continue with another normal shift until 5pm.
When the long hours, up to 34 or more at a stretch when a houseman is on call, were brought up in the past the Health Ministry blamed it on the shortage of doctors.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said on call duties are part of a doctor’s responsibility, “but with the increase in the number of doctors joining the service, we hope the situation will get better in the future”.
But several medical officers who went through a “nightmarish” year as housemen said the long hours probably “did more harm than good”.
But a doctor, who did his housemanship in Malacca Hospital six years ago, disagreed saying he had to work seven days a week, including public holidays.
“If we wanted a day off, we had to apply for annual leave. It was terrible.
“I didn’t have a life outside the hospital. It got so bad, there was a time when out of sheer exhaustion I couldn’t perform CPR properly to resuscitate a patient.
“He was the third patient to collapse that night, and I was already spent from a lack of sleep and hard work.
“I think making doctors work so long probably does more harm than good,” he said.
He confirmed that housemen were treated badly by the medical officers, who referred to them as “the scum of the earth”.
Another doctor, who did her housemanship in Kuantan Hospital last year, said the hands-on experience was the best way to learn, but the working hours could be a little easier.
“We don’t mind working for 24 hours while on call and then doing the morning rounds. But at least they should let us off by midday so we can rest,” she said.
This was echoed by another doctor, based in Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, who said housemen were very often too tired to concentrate by the end of their long shifts.
“They can’t think properly, and this sometimes leads to wrong medical decisions as their judgment is affected.”

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