Ode to the newbies.

May 22, 2011

“Can you believe it? A TRAINEE doctor!”

I was making my way to do a pre-op assessment on a patient one evening (yup, working late) and my mind wandered to the agonising decision on how many KFC drumsticks I should takeaway later. That thought was quickly put on hold as I walked into my patient’s cubicle.

In bed was the lady I’m looking for, an arm in a sling awaiting her surgery on the after-hours orthopaedic list. A young guy was sitting by her bedside reading the newspaper. Both looked up and nodded as I gave the wide wave and smile which (according to the nurses) is too cheerful for someone working late.

It was soon established that the lady speaks minimal English and the son (the young guy) would be helping to translate back and forth. I went through my usual questions probing her med/surg history, and then informed that I might be putting a larger cannula on her other arm closer to the time of surgery.

Immediately the son had gone into a rant.

He pointed to the back of his mum’s hand (where I could see a small band-aid) and started looking all annoyed. Looked like a previous unsuccessful IV attempt.

“Earlier some trainee doctor tried to put a drip in, and he didn’t do it right and it hurts my mum so much. Imagine, a trainee doctor! How ridiculous is that??”, sputtered he.

I glanced at the mum and saw that she was nodding at her son’s words.

“Well…this is the way that the trainees learn. They need the practice.”, as I offered the son an apologetic smile.

“But how can they do that at my mum’s expense! I mean, a trainee doctor, come on! Why can’t they send over a real doctor to do it??”.

I sighed.

Look, I could understand why the son is upset – but I also don’t think they understand that we have no other way to learn except to real life practice. As tempted as I was to start my lil’ own dialogue on the learning predicaments of med students/interns/the rest of us, I chose to minimise dwelling on it.

I sympathetically apologised to the mum for the inconvenience caused, but did briefly maintained the juniors are learning and skill is gained via experience. It was unfortunate/regrettable that the attempt caused her significant discomfort.

I probably could have mentioned that the consultants they see walking around now were once newbies; we all gotta start from somewhere. The other thing is from the manner the son speaks, it sounded like they were expecting any real doctor to be able to do an successful IV on first try – to the point where I’d expect the son to gasp in disbelief/horror should they ever witness a more senior doctor fail putting in the drip.

Yes, the more experienced the doc is, the chances are better at a successful attempt. But ‘real’ doctor or not – we are all still learning, and we are not infallible.

However, if unrealistic individuals still choose to persist in condemning the newbies…in a world with no consequences, we might need to use one of these :-

Falcon Punch : Lvl 1



Winter chills.

May 11, 2011


Threw my blanket to the side and immediately made an ‘eek’ face. It’s freezing COLD. Told myself I could use another 5-10 minutes hiding under the blanket.


So much for 5-10 minutes. Jumped outta bed and put the water flask to boil. Kitchen floor feels like ice. Ran back in my pink checkered oversized pyjamas and sought refuge with the blanket again.


Made some Milo. Had breakfast drink in bed while having a quick surf for online news.


Glunked the Milo and jumped into the shower. Thank goodness for hot water.


Reaching deep into my pile of fresh laundry looking for some warm clothes to throw on. Have been putting off folding the laundry for a long time. Been spending every morning shoulder-deep in mound of clothes trying to find a complete pair of socks. Today is no different.


Arrived at work. Late again. Sneaked into the change room ninja-style to avoid looking guiltily late.


Said hello to the first patient of the day. Apologised for sounding like a frog in the morning. Made small talk to relax them and then disintegrate whatever composure they’ve attained by showing them the cannulation needle. Rinse and repeat with every patient. Whisk them off to theatre.


Lunch time. Too lazy to walk to the cafeteria. Made some toast in the pantry with loads of butter and sprinkled on some sugar. It’s raining now. Feels cold still. The clouds look grey and unwelcoming outside. Wonder if it’d get warmer by the time I get off work.


Said hello to the second bunch of patients. Unanimous decision that today is freezing. Started ranting about how hard it is to get up on time for work. Got patients to feel nice and warm being indoors before poking them. Smiles disappear fairly quickly when they see you with holding the needle.


Surprisingly finished work on time. Decided to go home and YouTube under the warm blanket to rejoice on this rare occasion.


Putting this entry up on the blog. Back into my pyjamas and clown socks. In bed with my laptop. Just had a nice hot dinner (minced chicken noodles!) and now savouring the feeling of being a lazy bum. It’s raining heavily outside and able to feel some slight chill emanating from the glass window.

Rain rain...

Decided to do a personal list on the few cons of having uncomfortably cold weather :-

1. It takes a lot of effort to leave the bed to go pee in the toilet in the middle of the night. When decidedly to do so, note that the decision comes after either an incredible amount of contemplation, or the risk of the exploding bladder.

2. Bed = comfort zone. Anywhere beyond is not.

3. Hearing rain pouring as you wake up. The thought of going to work on a cold wet day at 7am is as encouraging as being told you are first on the list for a rectal exam.

4. Constipation. I can feel a bowel motion coming on, but the everything clamps shut the moment I sit on the icy porcelain throne.

5. Ridiculously cold hands and feet.

6. Risk of head colds. Walking against the cold wind sometimes gives me this tight uncomfortable feeling across the forehead. Puts me in a prolonged frown with squinty eyes ala Clint Eastwood.

7. Perpetual state of extreme laziness. I have minimal motivation to move my bum anywhere. Just look at the state of my room.

First rant of 2011, diligent eh?
You won’t believe what drove me to writing again. Uh, well actually I thought of doing so for a long time now just that I keep procrastinating. But in all honesty, it was triggered by the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise. Seriously.

But not like what you’d expect.

2 days ago. I recall running up the corridors outside of the operating theatres while hurriedly pulling the scrub balaclava over my head. There was an orthopaedics list going on and they usually insist on everyone having a balaclava to minimise the risk of infection.

I stuffed my previous usual scrub cap in my pocket (the one that looks like a shower cap) and thought, “Instead of being a mushroom head, now we all look like Osama bin Laden“.

A couple of hours later, I saw a few theatre staff gathering round the TV in the tea room. CNN was on and the breaking news tag line carried the words “Osama bin Laden dead”. I remember this was just a few minutes before the Barack Obama goes on air to give a public address.

My mind backtracked to how he came up in my thoughts just before. Didn’t expect him to be declared dead so shortly after. Was mentally reeling by the news. It was a strange feeling.

Then I thought, man, I really gotta get back to blogging.

*     *     *

So what’s everyone up to nowadays?

I am still quite the YouTube junkie. Most of my days off work were spent browsing YouTube for really random stuffs. Anything from how to prepare sashimi to catching up on The Apprentice to watching a tournament clip of a Street Fighter match.

Incoming mini rambling on work.

Work has been a major energy-drainer (those long hours sap the life outta you). Whatever free time I have are mainly utilised to pay off my sleep debt and to indulge the glutton in me. One of my terrible habits is being really prone to missing meals when I am at work. When it gets busy I’d tell myself to wait another hour (and another, and another…) before I run off to grab a bite – only to end up doing a 12 hour shift straight without any food in between. Feels like I’ve enrolled myself into an accidental weight loss program.

I wear scrubs at work nowadays and although it’s very comfortable, I now have the familiar phobia of my pants suddenly unraveling and dropping to my ankles without warning. They come in different rough sizes but they’re kinda big on average. There are days when I arrive a bit late to work (another one of my bad habits) and the small pants are all snapped up. Next up would of course be the medium sized ones which fit me as well as you could fit a primary school kid in maternity wear. I then end up looking like a wannabe rapper for the rest of the day.

Oh ya, the lanyards.

I dunno about the rest, but I believe I’ve stuck too many things unto my lanyard/ID tag.

Firstly there’s always the usual standard photo ID tag with a magnetic swipe card. Not only do I realise I smile like a monkey, now others can see that for themselves too. There is also an ID access card for another affiliated hospital which I have secured to lanyard so I don’t end up misplacing it. So that’s Monkey v2.0.

Next comes a stack of laminated quick-reference cards (like drug doses, therapeutic levels, protocols, yada yada) which I think I carry about 15-20 of them. They’re all of a different colour (some in neon!) which I would flick and flash them quickly to confuse/stun the kiddies when they’re not cooperating. Makes them think I’m from Sesame Street.

Attached to the clip of the tag are my locker keys and another one which I now can’t remember what it’s for (was obviously daydreaming during orientation). They each come with their own bright identifying keychains. I tinkle when I walk.

I have also clipped a penlight and incidentally a malfunctioning pen – hasn’t been quite right since I dropped it down the stairs – to the the lanyard. Sometimes a spare hairclip too. And yes, the bulky pager.

Collectively from all of the above, I suspect my entire lanyard weighs close to a kilo. It jiggles/rattles when I walk, and when I turn around quickly I’m at risk of injuring others. It swings out in a style reminiscent of cattle swatting flies with their tail.

Oh, and now it also can be used as a nunchuck.