Sometimes miserable, always noble

by Dr Timothy Cheng

I read the article ‘once noble, now miserable’ by KH SNG with sadness that a fellow doctor has been overwhelmed with such negativity.

The world is evolving, and so are the patients we treat. The internet and social media now offers everyone information, whether accurate or not regarding health and sickness. Patients are naturally more demanding and some may even turn to lawsuits for a quick buck.

What then is our response? Rather than paint a miserable and bleak picture, we should take this as a challenge to work on our interpersonal and communication skills. To those that are considering a career in medicine – if you cannot bear with frustrating and rude people, perhaps a change of direction is necessary. Do not walk in the rain and complain of getting wet. Meanwhile, lawmakers need to formulate policies to protect doctors against ridiculous and baseless allegations.

The security and salary of a doctor isn’t what it used to be. How true. Many fresh graduates are now working other jobs while waiting to be posted for housemanship. However, one must learn that entering into healthcare service must be done without any expectations, especially when dealing with a flawed system. We can write letters and fight the system till the cows come home and still be sitting at home waiting for that official posting letter a year after graduation. Salaries are also unlikely to go up anytime soon and if you want to be a young millionaire – don’t be a doctor.

Working shifts does not mean no allowance for rest. This is highly hospital and department dependent and the centers that I have worked in so far have always allowed adequate rest and a decent place to sleep during an on-call. Not all bosses/superiors are tyrants and many, in fact teach and mentor excellently.

The high dropout rate and resignation of junior doctors should not be blindly blamed on the working hours and job stress. I definitely agree that rest is important and necessary for optimal patient care. However given the current system, one needs to prepare and adapt – don’t run a marathon and expect it to be easy.

Perhaps some would scorn and scoff at my naivety and innocence, and label me as being too idealistic. Being a doctor may be getting more and more miserable in Malaysia, but will always be noble. Let us continue to encourage and build each other up and remind each other of why we started in the first place. Policies and systems may take a lifetime to amend and change – meanwhile, chin up, hold on tight and persevere on.

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