Saturday, June 13, 2009

Social gathering

Tonight, my friend Sarah invited me over to her place for steamboat with a couple of friends from church. She supplied most of the ingredients (although we split up the total cost among ourselves) as well as boiling a wonderful mix of chicken and pork stock/soup and a huge plate of stir fried meehoon. Since its the beginning of Winter, I think that everyone was very grateful that we had something warm, nourishing and delicious in our bellies. (Although the guys were complaining that they didn't feel 100% full afterwards). This was then followed by a short CG session mainly aiming towards those that were sitting for their end of semester exams next week. Afterwards, we spent an hour or so of leisurely chat about studies and life. It's always inspirational and stimulating whenever friends engage in conversations about life and exchange ideas and opinions. You can learn a lot from listening to others (especially those that are heading down a similar path as yours) and it enables you to reanalyse or re-evaluate your own thoughts and opinions. The act of bonding is essential to any human being; we are not created to be solitary beings. Friends can give you support, encouragement and advice that greatly differs from your own family members. Most of all they make you feel less alone in the world; after all life is full of so many trials and tribulations, ups and downs, so it always helps to have someone to lean on for comfort and reassurance.

Being a final year medical student in the midst of preparation for finals and going to hospital on daily basis, we are left with very limited time for social interaction. Not that we don't converse with one another but I am referring to gatherings or functions not related to medicine. I guess when we are interns, residents or registrars we will be left with even less time which even includes caring for our ownselves. I heard that interns back in Malaysia work like 'donkeys' and their overnight shift is 36 hours long that they do not even have time to take a shower so they develop a rather dishevelled appearance. Not to mention eye bags, dark circles around the eyes, wrinkles, oily hair and bad complexion. Sometimes I wonder why medicine involves so much sacrifice. We kill ourselves trying to soak up everything that is taught to us like a sponge, fret about the things that were not taught so we turn to a torturous hours of self-study, endure the daily drilling and questions fired by our consultants, face exams/assessments, sleepless nights worrying about the next day where the entire vicious cycle starts all over again. And when we are finally graduate as doctors, the happiness lasts temporarily and we are worked to the point to exhaustion where we live by the motto that 'the patient always comes first'. We have to work a minimum of 5 days a week, endure night shifts that can seem to last for an eternity and perform procedures that we have not done in our entire life (I have heard horrendous stories from interns and residents claiming that they were forced to do minor surgeries/ clinical procedures that they have only witnessed once or read about from textbooks but never have actually done it in real life). It is no wonder interns dread days when they are 'on call' as they are basically unqualified doctors clearly lacking in clinical experience. If you are posted to somewhere rural, it is highly unlikely that many of your colleagues or consultants will be available during the wee hours of the morning and if you are the only registered doctor around, any patient that comes in is under your 'duty of care'. This can mean any sort of patient (especially in the ED where all sorts of patients can present to you) and you are in charge of managing the patient regardless of whether its a psychiatric, obstetric, paedetric or surgical case. Most of the interns at POW walk around with a 'stressed look' on their face. That's probably going to be me in the future. Its kind of like a scene from a superhero movie; you come when you are called irrespective of whether you are in the midst of something (sleeping, eating, etc) and you try your very best to save the victim (in this case its the patient) even if it involves your life (in this case sacrificing your physical and mental health).

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