My First Day At Work (Hospital)

Here’s what all of you have been waiting for: the first tip of the iceberg of my experiences (a Malaysian teenager’s experiences) in the healthcare sector!

For those who are new to my blog, I am actually still a post-SPM teenager, to join foundation in science in May this year. After my time as a sales and retails assistant with a small local company ended, I proceeded to seek a job at a hospital for relevant experience with what I’m planning to study. I am currently still working there and I am immensely grateful for the enriching experience, as much as I enjoyed that of my previous job. See previous post: My First Day At Work (Retail).

My first day at work as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) at the Emergency Unit was an unbelievably hectic one. Someone from the human resource (HR) department helped me set my thumbprint in the hospital system, which I would use everyday for clocking in and out. Then I was brought to the Emergency Unit, where she gave quick instructions to the staff to add me to the duty roster and show me around. The Emergency Unit is very small and easy to navigate. It mainly comprises of a registration counter, the medical officer’s consultation room, a small ward with three beds and a treatment room.

After that, I was given my pre-employment hepatits B jab by the same nurse who showed me around, who would in the coming weeks become my colleague and friend. Then I walked, uncertainly, to the registration counter and sat at the computer.

This was how the working environment at the counter had looked like to me on my first day: raised voices of the staff, hospital forms being thrown about, furious typing on the computer keyboard, patients walking in and out. Already this was a small hospital, and the Emergency area that I was working at looked more like a small clinic than a hospital; yet I could hardly process anything that was going on. I knew one thing for sure, though: this is what behind the scenes looks like. This is a real hospital. Just like facing out of the shop booth to promote the products instead of facing in to make a purchase, I was standing behind a counter I only ever stood in front of. It was a change in perspective, an intriguing shock to my system, and I was eager to learn more.

So I sat at the counter and let a nurse tell me what to do. “Click sini. Click sana. Tekan ini. Type nama dia.” I understood that there was no time yet to explain the why and how of everything that was happening, and diligently did as she said, even though my mind was spilling with questions. I would later realise that in this fast-paced working world where customers (first job: retail) or patients (second job: hospital) had to be attended to quickly, learning should be based less on endless questions and more through observation and practice. You really learn a whole lot better that way.

But you must dare to observe and dare to practice. You truly must. You must let your desire to learn override your fears, and then nothing can stop you from absorbing all that the world has to offer.

To the nurse that stood next to me on my first day, ordering me to do this do that, let’s call her Free (named changed to protect identity): I will remember you for some time to come. For every small thing that I did right in the coming weeks you would say “cantik” or “dah pandai”; you also knew how to breakdown certain things so that I would understand, and for that I am very grateful.

You could say that on my first day, all I ended up learning was only how the counter looked like. I still could not grasp anything properly, not even the basic registration of patients, because everything was happening so fast; but regardless, with my first glimpse behind the scenes, I was already learning.

Most of what I learnt on my first day was the physical layout, and the working atmosphere, and I do think that was already a good lesson for a beginner like me!

~Rachel Tan

First Day At Work (Retail)

First Day At Work, 2 December 2019

I remember on my very first day at work, reporting for duty at my first paid job, I was filled with an acute sense of weirdness.

Matchy & Co Christmas season booth
17 December 2019
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

Today I would only work for 4 hours from 2-6pm, and my bosses would evaluate my abilities and decide if I could officially become their staff.

But it didn’t matter. I was working!

After years and years of either “barely breathing” in school, or burying my head in model test papers and reference books at home, days after my SPM, I walked into the hub of Midvalley Megamall – centre court – with Christmas songs playing and people chattering while taking photos of the gigantic teddy bears, and christmas trees decorated this year with the most cute mooses — carefully approaching a little wooden makeshift booth that would become my second home for the rest of the month of December.

A big sign that said “Matchy & Co” hung above keychains, stationery sets and travel wallets displayed below, all available in an array of colours and designs. I was told to put my little backpack in the cupboard behind the booth, and as I was trying to find a place to put my bag amongst the even more impressive stacks of wallets, I saw a lady sitting on a chair at a flimsy wooden table, which was really part of the booth, handling a little machine that I did not yet know what it was for.

Then I was told to stand in front of the booth, and Viv, the lady whom I had contacted through whatsapp, told me the prices and promotion set offers for the items, all of which I had to write down and eventually memorise. It was a very slow process, because business goes on as usual and Viv had to attend to the customers. When Viv was busy, I admired the products on display and marveled at the bright colours – but more than that, I felt acutely aware of how strange it was to be standing in front of a booth at midvalley, but instead of facing in to make a purchase, I was facing out to promote these items. After a while, in a flurry of aggressive but friendly promoting, when I was seen standing there doing nothing while everyone was working so hard, I was prompted to start selling by my colleagues.

“I haven’t finished learning all the prices.” I reminded, feeling maybe more than a bit worried. They explained that the best way to memorise the prices fast is actually to start selling. I soon realised what they meant when I tried to sell.

“How much is this wallet?” Someone would ask, and I would try to as inconspiciously as possible slip out my a-bit-too-big notebook, under the dubious eyes of a customer, as I err-d and umm-d to fill the awkward silences. Flip, flip goes the pages. “This is 60 ringgit,” I would reply. “And how about this?” and I would fumble with the notebook again, and state the price again, as robotic as the price-checking machines you find at Ace, the hardware store. But do that three times and it starts to stick in your head, and soon it becomes easy and effortless.

Soon my superior Viv saw that I was not making much progress, and she came over to train me while all the human beings were busy having their lunch – during the quieter period. Earlier, she had told me to aim to approach 10 customers an hour, and make a tick on my notebook for every customer I approached. Under pressure to perform, I made sure I exceeded this minimum by far, walking up to promote to every human being that walked pass, until it surprised my bosses. However, one thing was not under my control: my closing rate. (=how many customers I actually successfully converted to buyers).

Viv picked up a product. “I’m your customer now. Miss, may I know how much is this passport holder?”

“RM40.” I replied smoothly, happy that she happened to choose the only product that I had managed to memorise so far.

“If I buy this travel pouch and this wallet, will I get a discount?”

My eyes snapped down to my notebook and up again, swiftly. “Yes, that will be RM 90 in total.” Not too much hesitation. Still ok.

“Can’t I get them for RM 80?” Cass, the lady who had interviewed me, asked. “Tell your boss lah. It’s only RM 10 cheaper. Can one lah. Ask your boss.” Cass eyed me challengingly.

“Cannot.” I replied curtly, caught by surprise. “It’s already discounted.” Cass laughed.

“You can’t say it that way,” she grinned. “You can’t just say: ‘Cannot.’ You can say it in a more friendly manner. ‘Sorry, sir, it’s actually already discounted you know! Originally, the price for both items totals up to (how much). I am unable to give you a further discount, if not my boss will deduct from my salary!’ and then the customers will smile.”

For the rest of the month I would be reminded again and again to smile more, speak louder, and say things and make conversation that help the customers feel comfortable. Gradually, it dawned on me that this was not simply customer service; I was learning the abstract skills involved in terms of human interaction, and it is not something you can obtain from textbooks. It is an area that I have been especially lacking in practice, and the advice I get from my superiors, who are a great mix of strict and friendly, is eye opening. With each new day at work for the rest of December 2019, meeting people young and old, alone or in groups, mothers with kids and men just off work, foreigners from the US, Hong Kong, China, Australia, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, and little boys and girls who would tug at my jeans and call me “姐姐” (big sister), my heart would open just a little bit more to the prospect of temporary but meaningful friendship.

In the next hour, I sold to two customers, to the delight of my colleagues, and I was told at the end of my probation that I would probably be accepted to work with them for the rest of the month. I’m really happy for that!

Big day: collecting SPM results!

Finally comes the big day: collection of our SPM results, that we toiled day and night for last year (2019)!

With work and all, doing a 14 hour double shift TWO times this week (Alert, I will be letting you in into my new job soon! And…. it’s not what you would expect.) I haven’t been letting the ever-approaching big day sink in yet. Instead, my mind has been occupied with something else: Covid-19, which has become the hot topic of my workplace only very recently.

But that is a topic for later (stay updated… if you want to find out.). So it is because of that that my result day only really starts to hit me when I take a day off to collect my results today, on the 5th of March. Worn out, I had slept through the night, waking up the next day to messages from friends who were still up at 4 am due to nervousness!

After I arrive at school, I enter the hall and I walk around, find some people to say hi and catch up with, then I find our class label and scoot to the front and sit down behind my old deskmate. We talk animatedly about our study plans for the near future. Then… it’s time to collect our SPM results! Hot out of the oven – it’s here. Ready or not!

9As. Out of 10. Yay!

I feel happy that my hard work has paid off. I tell my folks, and they are proud too. Since my younger brother has first-term exams, we decide to postpone any celebration or reward to “later”. No specified date is mentioned, however, so there is a possibility that all the hecticness of university preparation will cause those to be forgotten. Should have asked for a signed contract! 😛

Then I walk around, looking for some friends. Being in a high performance school meant that there would always be people better than you: 10As, 11As, and 12A students were in such an abundance that 9As is relatively mediocre. However, I know that I must always stay neutral. Take in your surroundings, acknowledge it and see it for what it is, but ultimately, let your only competition be with yourself.

Everyone starts leaving the school compound. In denim jackets and long skirts and casual T-shirts and gel-ed or curled or dyed hair; for college classes or pre-U exams or part-time work or victory parties or family plans, they leave with their future ripe in their hands.

I am not sure what reward to ask for, because truly, the only thing I wish for in life is for happiness and a fulfilling life. I am happy I surpassed the requirement (the requirement is 5Bs for these five subjects: add math, math, physics, biology and chemistry). My results are well within the requirement to study medicine.

Now, I am looking forward to the fast-paced and demanding, but meaningful life being a doctor can give me!