Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Just sharing a link

Here's a letter written by an MO who just returned to Malaysia after practising as a doctor overseas:

I RECENTLY returned to Malaysia after a long stint as a practising doctor overseas. I am currently a medical officer in a government hospital.
I have seen this “mistreatment” first-hand. I have had housemen confide in me, one saying that he felt “choked”, another asked if he should request for a transfer and another exclaimed that he may not be suited for the medical field.
Since the pressure to perform is of utmost importance when it comes to patient care, the slightest of errors carry a huge burden for the doctor involved.
In Malaysia, the housemen are made to draw blood daily, do ECGs and administer antibiotics. There are no phlebotomy services and there is a lack of trust in nurses who would normally administer drugs.
Housemen are then quizzed on various subspecialty disorders during the morning rounds and denigrated in front of everyone should they fail to answer.
Public humiliation is a part of remedial work and teaching in the Malaysian health sector.
The more senior doctors are unable to rationalise the situation as they too were a part of the system.
The hierarchial system in Malaysian society is also partly to blame. It is almost taboo to refer to a person with a conferred title by their birth name. And it is disrespectful to address an older person by their given name. But it is a cultural norm for employers to subdue employees or those in position of power to ridicule their subordinates.
Likewise, housemen refer to MOs as “doctor” though they have similar paper qualifications.
Our moral book taught us to respect our elders. Perhaps, it is time we learn to respect everyone irrespective of age, sex, title, position, creed or caste.
Petaling Jaya



I notice that in the past couple of years, there has been a rise in awareness of the difficulties and challenges faced by housemen in this country. At the same time, the issue is always being ridiculed and looked down upon by the MOs and specialists, and sometimes even the senior HOs. Have you forgotten who you once were? Have you forgotten the very first day you stepped into the ward full of spirit and enthusiasm, only to have them crushed an hour later by the MOs and specialists? Have you forgotten how you came earlier than everyone else and thought you've got everything prepared for the morning rounds, only to be yelled at by the specialist when you can't recall a minor detail? Have you forgotten how you were treated like trash for the whole 3 months of the posting, just because of one tiny mistake you made in the first week of the posting?

I have watched lots of my friends who become the very thing they hate in the first place. Once they get into the 3rd or 4th posting, then they start to act all senior-ish and look down on the junior HOs. The irony.

But of course, I'm not denying that there are a lot of good senior HOs and good MOs. And I have nothing but admiration and respect for them. In particular, the MOs and specialists of Paediatrics department in Hospital Serdang. They're the reason I managed to complete the posting even though I hated paediatrics. At the end of the posting, I even thought I might want to become a paediatrician.

But the bad ones? I had a friend, who made the tiniest mistake one day, and she was considered the most "useless" HO for the rest of the posting by the MOs and senior HOs. I was there when she made the mistake. She had her hands full that day. One MO gave her a few tasks, another MO gave her a few more tasks, the radiologist gave her a different task, the specialist also gave her some tasks as well. She managed to complete all of it, but in the rush she made a small mistake. Only one MO knew of her mistake, but he shared the story with all the other MOs and specialists, and the houseman was looked down upon for the rest of the posting. How about the absurd number of other tasks that she managed to complete that day? Did anyone share that story? Nope. People will only remember you for your mistakes. Don't ask me what kind of mistake she did. It was quite some time ago and I can't recall properly, but I know it was nothing major. Other HOs make bigger mistakes all the time but they get away with it because they're close with the MOs and specialists, or they know how to blame someone else, or they're just good at hiding it.

I always thought that the most important value a doctor should have is empathy. But it seems that it has become a value that is lacking the most.


  1. Hi Danny, I've read through all the posts in your blog, finding them all very beneficial and encouraging. Thank you so much! I'm also a houseman on the verge of quitting, facing family pressure n financial issues (Jpa scholar). Other than that my family financial status is stable. And yes, I'm not quitting coz I can't stand the stress/long hours of working/Scoldings/humiliation etc. those can be intolerable at times. I'm quitting coz I have no interest in medicine in the first place, and loathe the system as well. I do not even agree with some of the management/drug use in hospital. Dangerous doctor eh? Lol. Anyway thank you for setting up this blog in the first place! It really makes us 'so-called quitters' feeling not so lonely facing a huge battle of opposition. Afterall, it's better to quit something u r not passionate about than to quit the entire life ahead, living without passion. Thanks again Danny!

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  3. Hi. I'm also an ho, going to finish my housemanship in just another 1 month time. Before I started my housemanship, I remember reading your blog and had thoughts about quitting. But I went for it anyway, pass through all 5 postings without major mishaps. I think I like medicine, and glad that I managed to go this far. I'm not sure if I can be a competent mo though..it's just something happened today which kinda break me down and I started surfing the net again..the moment I hated the most was when we houseman are not appreciated.Like you said, we did all other things, but they only remember the 1 little thing that we miss/overlooked. Can't they say thanks to us at least? The only difference between junior and senior are the experience! Dont expect us to know what they'd been dealing with all their life! Anyway, even with my close circle of friends now, I can see some of them are so gonna be malignant mo one day. I just hoped I did not do to my juniors what I hated the most. Hopefully I won't become the reasons they quit.Glad I was able to let this all out.

    1. Hi Kimchi, thanks for sharing. I'm glad you didn't quit and managed to reach the end of your housemanship. I'm sure you'll be a good MO, if you treat your houseman as a colleague, rather than a subordinate. Working in a hospital is tough enough as it is, even without the scolding and humiliation. Be a MO that the houseman will look up to and inspire to be, not the MO that housemans are afraid of, or despise. I'll be praying for your success.

  4. Hi Danny. How is life? Any regret?