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Abused junior doctors

Abused junior doctors
by Shazee Ali Ghazali

Letter from a young MPF’ian (Shazee Ali Ghazali, Monash 2007)

I am an 18 year old about to start medical studies in two months and as a result have been reading with great interest the on-going debate surrounding the working environment of housemen and junior doctors.

I have friends who are studying medicine at the moment, friends who have completed their studies and are beginning work, and friends who are already successful doctors.

I am at a loss to fully comprehend the divergent views I read in the newspapers about the medical culture related to the working ambience of the young doctors.

There are those who complain about long working hours and unreasonable on-call duties. And there are those who swear by this method, like the current Health Minister (NST Dec 15, 2006) and the president of MMA (NST Nov 30,2006) arguing it is the ideal method in training a doctor for the real world.

In my humble opinion, doctors need to experience the stress and long hours that come in the early stages of their career in order to prepare themselves for the road ahead. Before starting university most medical students know what they are getting themselves into and they just have to keep their heads down and take what comes.

But having said that, there is no point in working a doctor to his bone only for him to make an error due to fatigue or the loss of sleep. One would create unnecessary risks to the patient and compromise the quality of medical care. Isn’t that just being contradictory to being a doctor?

What is even more disturbing are the stories of bullying of housemen and junior doctors by their superiors. I think this goes against the ethics of being a doctor. As care givers doctors learn bedside manners and learn to deal with all sorts of people. Communication is vital. Those who abuse their power, humiliate and bully are in gross violation of the oaths they take. How can one be a likeable, friendly and successful doctor while being an arrogant, cruel and harsh superior?

What is needed in Malaysia is a balance between clinical training that comes with long hours and a generous dose of humanity from all quarters involved in the training and nurturing of these young doctors.

The ordinary layperson trust doctors with their life, most of the time blindly because they have so little knowledge of medicine. Our responsibility is to honour that trust and heal them with our hard earned medical knowledge and skills, with a mega dose of empathy, love and compassion. If we make a mistake, due to negligence brought on by fatigue, we have failed ourselves, our profession and a life dear to family and friends may be lost.