Sep 29, 2018

Do You Want to Quit Housemanship?

This is a seasonal post, trust me. If you are reading this around the time this post is published, chances are you also have read the viral facebook posts by Miya Wong about the reasons why she quit being a houseman in Malaysia.

Statistically speaking, and I mean I don't know who came up with the numbers and there is no creditable sources to back this up, but again, statistically speaking:
  • 1 in 5 junior doctors undergoing housemanship do not complete their training and quit being a doctor.
  • 1 in 3 housemen having to be extended beyond their 2-year stint of housemanship

Before we start taking sides and bash each other with tonnes of personal tragedies and triumphs, we have to agree there are valid reasons why we sometimes feel like quitting our housemanship training program and just, be done with being a doctor altogether. Those reasons could be, in collection or isolated, included in this list:
  • long working hours (major stressor)
  • odd working hours
  • no leaves (major stressor)
  • not enough leaves
  • odd-hour leaves
  • shitty colleagues
  • no colleagues (major stressor)
  • shitty superiors (minor stressor)
  • really, really shitty superiors (major stressor)
  • really, really creepy superiors (major ALARM BELL)
  • homesick
  • no support system (family, spouses) (major stressor)
  • financial issues
  • health issues
  • realized that you hate working with people
  • realized that you hate healthcare service industry
  • crime
  • oh, salary
  • yeah, about that salary
  • benefits, bonuses compared to private sectors
  • business opportunities
  • being a celebrity
  • (insert your reasons here)

For whatever the reasons that nudge people closer and closer to the edge, please, and I genuinely plead that you respect their decision whether to make the jump or keep hanging on to the cliff. You are crude and arrogant to think just because you can endure it, that means everyone can and shall endure it.

I say this because as much as I think I enjoy where I am now, I still have the burnout and the lows when working from time to time. In fact, I am in a slum right now. The burnout is here and I have to deal with it. Always is and always will be. But even then I still remember very clearly what I felt when I first started working as a houseman. I still remember the dread, the loneliness, the emptiness that dwelt inside me in each waking hours and in every sleepless nightmares that came haunting. 

To emphasize again and again, you wouldn't believe how lonely Medicine can be to some people, oh if only you knew.

Then again, to those of us who are nearing the breaking point - take comfort in knowing that it is okay to have this feeling. I have friends who quit being a houseman, I have friends who regretted quitting housemanship, and I also have friends who quit and happily never look back. I understand the bottled and suppressed emotions that just begged to be released like a vortex into the black void. That feeling that you don't quite know what to do with it and there's no one that you can talk to that truly understand and empathize with you.

And you take it with you everyday. To work and back home, each day feels like a riptide being pulled by the Moon.  Each day feels heavier, there's no way out, and you cried to yourself alone at night. You started to lose hope. You started to lose sight. The future that you envisioned for so long just disappear in the mist of the blackest fog. You can't stand the stare from the onlookers that watched silently as you being roasted daily by the end of the patient's bed. You hate the stares, both venomous and full of pity alike. The coat and its stuffed pockets feel so heavy on your shoulders and your stethoscope around your neck just feel so suffocating. 

And that there's only so much that you can endure, that you can stomach. What happens when you can no longer stand it, can no longer swallow it - what happens when you can literally feel your body shattering into pieces, crumbled and billowed away? Would you want to listen to the endless rant of people who do make it, who triumphed over their demons, and practically prattling about their tips and their too-late advice? Would you?

If you have an ounce of humility in you, at one point or another, you would also experience if not all but a shred of what I once experienced. And if you are a broken soul, as I was and sometimes are, you would learn to recognize it in the eyes of your other colleagues. The same defeated eyes, the hunchbacked postures and the low speech pattern of those who are bearing the brunt and tired of getting the short end of the stick.

Offer a helping hand. Help others as much as you can. Be a good colleague to others. Be a good listener. Share stories and motivate as often as you will. Never be afraid to ask for help. Seek out constructive outlets. Indulge in your wants and desires. Invest in your soul-cleansing. Do not shy to ask for opinions, for a willing ear, or a shoulder to lean on. Never feel guilty for being weak. For being lost. For being less than whole. Never ever feel that you don't deserved to be saved.

I have been writing my experiences since before I started being a doctor and will continue to do so from time to time. Reach out if you want to talk and I will listen.


  1. Randomly stumbled upon this post after searching about this viral issue.

    I am not a medical doctor but I used to work closely with them and I have many friends who are doctors. Many actually felt like they want to quit housemanship due to the reasons you mentioned. So i think what Miya Wong wrote is valid and it is not right to belittle her saying that she is weak just because one has completed the HOship walaupun mental sendiri koyak. I believe her intention is to create awareness through socmed about how toxic the system is. It looks like it is gaining a result more people are opening up, more discussions are sparked about this issue.

    Btw, I like your writing style! It gets me hooked.

    1. You are absolutely right, Dr. What I think is lacking among healthcare "professionals" is simply empathy towards our own colleagues.

      If we want to reflect on this issue properly, we would find that the cold shoulder she's gotten from the doctors sharply mirrors what we think about people with mental health in general. That people should just handle their life properly, that any breakdown is seen as a weakness or fault in character - what does it really say about people who are in depression, or with schizophrenia and bipolar?

      Why can't we just be kind to people? Be kind. Be kind, always.

      Anyway, thank you for your compliment! I really appreciate it. Thank you for reading my blog :)

  2. I wish i could quit parents,what others will say is bothering the same time,being ho is purely depressing and at times it's hard to digest it..

    1. congrats on making it this far! I know it sounds cliche but you have to hang on! Stress can be managed in a number of ways - find yourself a hobby, a circle of friends to hang out with, or simply be with people you comfortable with

  3. I want to quit too because i feel like I'm not meant for this job but 1. parents 2. what other jobs can I do that actually pay decent gaji?

    1. hang in there, sha. Sometimes we feel as if we are not suitable for the job. But maybe, that kind of job is the one that needs you. Just clear your nawaitu and have faith in the fate preordained to us all.

  4. I am too tired that there is nothing I can type...
    I wanted to suicide many times due to this stress..
    Why is it very hard to be kind.. I can do that, why can't others...
    Getting scolded and humiliated when I didn't make any mistake...
    No one taking care whether I have eaten or not where I had to spend all the time in the ward while my MO and superiors sit comfortably in the cafeteria and having nice chit chat..
    Every morning I have to wake up at 5.30 am just to follow my superior's rounds not to forget the harsh abusive language I have to endure at such early morning... Going back home at 11pm everyday....
    Too tired... Too tired to even cry...
    Too tired to even eat... To tired to even live ...
    Is this what I choose for... Where is myself... Where did I lose it....
    Why this... Why did I choose this ...
    There is no God...I am fed up..this the end....
    I want to kill all of you.....

    1. Hey Anon, that sucks to hear that. I understand you. It does sound like your training is so harsh and unforgiving. Back then I often thought that my MOs are having such a better life than us measly HOs but then I noticed their oncall are way longer and they do get the yelling too from time to time and it's much humiliating when you have Hos that look up to them. Maybe we are all suffering in our own way. But hey, don't give up just yet. Just keep on, even if at crawl pace.

      Do you have close friends / family to talk to? Perhaps a short break (if allowed) can refresh your mind. If you need to talk, please DM me at my twitter @safuanhakim . I might not be able to help much, but I'll do the best I can.

  5. I quit my housemanship many years ago n still unable to find a decent job. Owing to the fact that blackhole-ish past when ppl would ask "u have a medical degree, how come u cant practice medicine, things like that", it was like a criminal deed i have committed n can never ever erased it, only i was, still m, the perpetrator as well as the victim. I underwent tremendous stress even until now, i hope i could turn back the clock, but we all know that it s impossible.

    I quit my housemanship due to racial bullies btw.

    1. That is such an unfortunate thing that happened to you. In times of pandemic now, I can't imagine how hard it is to find any job now. I hope that you stay strong and never lose hope.

      You did nothing wrong, and it's important that you know that as well. Medicine is just one of the many things we can do. It might not meant for you when it should be, but the possibilities of what you can do are endless. I wish you all the best!