Apr 30, 2017

We are What We Repeatedly Don't Do

One of the main reasons I write about my housemanship journey is because I want people to benefit from reading a first-hand experience of becoming a housemanship in this country. When I was a medical student, I was grateful to find a number of blogs that share their experiences of becoming doctors and if not completely, at least I had a rough idea what it is like to be one. Of course, the reality is a bit different as I figured it out now.

The other main reason for me to blog is as a way of practice to do self reflection of my actions. Now, self reflection to me simply means to objectively evaluate yourself as if you are evaluating other people and analyzing what went well or wrong and how to improve on those things. Way back in my first year of medical school, the first ever assignment in my course is on how to do proper reflection. Remember that reflection is a crucial tool for a doctor for reasons that doctors need to periodically reevaluate their standard of care and to always improve their practice.

No no this isn't doing reflection. This is checking yourself out.

It is not simple to make a self-reflection. One, it is very difficult to view myself and having to admit that I do wrong. It is a horrible feeling. Two, often more than not, I don't even realize that what I do is not right. And three, I make justifications for those actions of mine - a big hurdle when trying to improve oneself. So here I am, struggling with words to convey what I wanted to reflect. But, I need to do it, no matter how ugly it paints me.


Four weeks ago, I was once scheduled to work in OT (operation theatre) for one day to assist the surgeons with gynaecological operations. On that day turned out to have only one operation and that operation was not in the morning like they normally do but in the afternoon. Now, one of the jobs for houseman working in the OT is to do morning / pre-op reviews in the gynae ward for patients who are scheduled for that day's operations. 

Well, after doing my review, I thought that, well, I was free until afternoon. It made sense at that time because that's usually what happened. They will review their patients who will go for OT then waited until the patients being pushed for op in the morning. What I did? I went back to my hostel room to chill as I thought I don't have to do anything else for the morning.

It turned out the bosses noticed that the OT housemen (me and my colleague) were both not in the gynae ward during the morning rounds. Sure, the housemen in charge of that wards were there, but apparently the OT housemen were supposed to be there as well. Well, colour me surprised because they made a really big fuss about it. We were scolded by this annoyingly loud MO who later called the specialist, the MO in charge of the housemen, the HO leader, then telling everyone from the sisters to the staff in OT about what happened. We were asked to do an explanation letter and to meet Dr A, our specialist in charge. If you want to know how to do an explanation letter, here is what I wrote:

Dr A said that for houseman issues with attitude problems, we are going to be extended for a month. It's not a straight-away direct extension, for in my case, because I told them that I only went downstairs to study in the houseman's room, and that I was only away for an hour (it took me only 5 minutes from my room to the ward), I safely finished my O&G without any extension. Heck, I suspected they had forgotten the thing altogether. 

But why am I telling all this? There is one main point I'm trying to make now and that is:

We are what we repeatedly do (or don't do).

To understand this, I have to elaborate on my habits during my 5+1 years of studying in medical school. As a student, I was never a model student. I was not hardworking nor were I passionate enough about what I was studying. If there were lectures that I thought too boring or didn't make sense, I would skip going. If there were instances where teachings in the hospital were cancelled or during rare unsupervised self-directed studies, I would go back home in a heartbeat rather than to stay in the hospital to watch procedures or to clerk any patients. In simpler terms, I was lazy.

This 'cutting-corners' habit of mine, now that I reflect on it, persists until now. It makes me realize that habits that we develop during medical school will affect how you work as a houseman. If during your studies you don't familiarized yourself with procedures such as inserting catheters to male patients (like I didn't), you will painfully be ashamed when admitting that you don't remember how to insert one when asked by the staff or your bosses (like what happened to me yesterday). In short, what we repeatedly do will help us in the long run and what we don't practice, well, we won't.

If I got the chance to advice my past self who were still studying in medical school, I would want him (me) to change my habits as soon as possible. Old habits do die hard, and I am trying so hard to change it. Do a lot and a lot of procedures, familiarize yourself with it, and start having the right attitude. Do not cut corners, do not skip things for anything, and make sure no jobs are left not done.

But if you are like me, who are already messed up but aware of it, I think there are still ways to salvage the situation. I, for one, fully recognize my distasteful attitude that I need to fix. I am aware of the many procedures I am poor at. I don't run away from doing them anymore. Like the other day, I failed my ABG taking so many times. Even when I thought I got it right for the first time in my life, the results highly suspected it to be from an arterial line. And the recent shameful male catheterization - I am so stupid for not consulting my seniors and went ahead doing it wrongly. I know better now, but how I wished I don't have to learn it from mistakes.

I think I can change. I want to be better. I don't want people to badmouth me or talk about me behind my back. I don't want to be the houseman whose his name when mentioned during conversations will result in a collective groan and sigh from other people. But to change, I have to accept this. I have to accept that I have a problem and I need to work on it. I need to work out how to work well in the ward fast. I need to be be able to do this all by myself.

And for that, I need to start repeatedly do the things I didn't do before, and become someone with a better work habit. May Allah ease.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone has their own weak points and you are lucky to actually notice it and wanting to change it for the better insyaAllah. Wish you the best in your current and future postings doc! Keep on writing, your blog helps me a lot and gives me some ideas/views of what being a houseman is like thank you! May Allah bless you