A young girl working alongside medical staff: the little obstacles Part 1

Previously, I had written about my experiences working at the Covid 19 frontlines earlier this year, and a detailed list of my job scopes as a Patient Care Assistant at a small Malaysian hospital. However, I have never told you about the various events of sakit kepala (meaning “headaches” in the Malay language) I get from working there.

However, these little mishaps and frustrating events are now only in my fond memories, as they are great insight into what the healthcare system is really like, and remind me that there will always be things to worry about when it comes to the health of the people. It also dawns on me that running a hospital is not easy, and there are bound to be disagreements and inefficiencies in the system, even if everyone truly does tries their best to provide the best care for their patients. If I were to become a doctor in the future, I must not become one of the strawberry generation (in Chinese, a strawberry is said to “bruise easily”, symbolizing our new generation that cannot take little failures and hardships). Therefore, a little hardship is good for training the spirit.

Of course, when I am writing about this, I am aware I have to tread lightly.

The first headache that comes to mind is this particular time we tried to do something as simple as registering a patient, that needed to be seen outside the hospital due to observed possible symptoms of Covid 19. I was sitting behind the counter of the emergency unit, doing admin work (handling of registering of the patients, writing in the case log book, opening certain bills, preparing lab forms etc). I was already juggling more than three things in my mind when a doctor from the specialist center walked up to me and said: “I want to see my patient outside the hospital. Register her under the emergency unit.”

I was confused. This was a patient of a specialist doctor. She should be registered under the specialist clinic, not under emergency. What should I do?

I asked the nurses this question. “Hey, dia patient specialist centre!” called the nurse, voicing my concerns exactly. “Bagilah specialist department register patient sendiri.” (Let the specialist department register their own patient.)

I then brought this patient’s personal details form to the specialist center. I explained to them that a doctor under their department wanted to see a patient outside, and instructed me to register her under the emergency unit. “Jika doctor nak tengok kat A&E, registerlah kat A&E. Bukankah doctor sendiri dah suruh register A&E?” (If the doctor wants to see the patient at the emergency unit, register them there. Did the doctor not request for the patient to be registered there?)

That did make sense, so I left and walked back to the emergency unit, but I was getting more and more perplexed now. So, the question is, should patients be registered under their doctors’ department, or should they be registered at the location there were being treated? Yes, that is precisely the question. I did not know the answer to that, but I knew that there was probably no answer. Perhaps no one has even thought of it before, since it is the first time we have had COVID 19 come attacking the people and and our already overloaded hospital system.

Knowing that doctors usually have the final say in everything (and perhaps rightly so), I expressed this issue to that doctor. “Is it possible or not, to register her here? If it’s possible, I want her registered here. Just register her here.” He demanded, pointing down at our registration computer. I nodded and he bustled off.

“Um,” I said clearly, hoping my colleagues (nurses at emergency department) had noticed, so that they wouldn’t demand yet again why I was registering a specialist doctor’s patient under our unit. “Dr X said to register them here. So I must register them here.” A nurse next to me had heard and agreed.

I tried to register the patient, but… I can’t remember at this point what exactly happened, as it has already been a few months since I stopped working at the hospital, and all this studying at university has probably displaced all my prior knowledge of the details of working! I do recall something about this patient having just visited the specialist center yesterday or something of the sort, which meant that her medical record folder had not been sent back up to the medical record department (known for short as MRD) yet and was still in the depths of the cupboards at the specialist center. So the patient’s details had to be brought to the specialist center yet again, but this time the nurse next to me said she would handle it, storming off with the patient’s details. Just like that, I was no longer involved in this issue.

For your information, dear reader, this is not uncommon. When working at the hospital, I face problems with tracing medical record folders all the time. Hence, for my medical interview to enter foundation leading to MBBS at my university, in the essay we had to write on the spot on our ideas for improving the healthcare system, I suggested that a electronic medical record (EMR) system should be imposed widely throughout the country. My interviewers praised me for being well read, but actually, I still have a lot to learn, haha! It’s just that when you had worked for two months at a hospital facing exactly that kind of problem, with folders missing, hidden in the cupboards or I-don’t-know-if-it’s-at-Emergency-or-Specialist-Centre-or-MRD-or-could-it-have-accidentally-gone-into-the-trash, it’s difficult not to wonder about a solution to this issue yourself.

There are two things I have learnt from this event alone. One, the importance of implementing a electronic medical record system on all medical premises, but of course that takes time and perseverance on the part of the government. Two, I have also discovered that doctors make most of the primary decisions, and as a doctor in the future, I may not be as lucky as I now am to be able to bombard my colleagues with questions or push duties to my fellow nurses if I’m not sure about anything. If I were to become a doctor, my nurses may be the ones to look to me for answers and although doctors are human, too, you just cannot always be saying: “Sorry, but I’m not sure.” Along the way as I am taking in medical education, I must also ensure that I am well read and updated, and find ways to help myself become smarter and be able to think on my feet. That is what is required of a doctor.

Although I have faced many predicaments during my short time as a patient care assistant, I now remember them all fondly and I know they have all helped me in some way!

The truth is – I have managed many things efficiently, juggled five things in my head to do at once, taken orders from two people talking at the same time, run from the first floor to the third floor, and performed at my best on many days. However, I have also made tons of mistakes, been ordered about and scolded often, and faced many frustrating issues while working; but when I think about everyone’s higher purpose here – providing the best care for the patients, it is easy to take every problem with a pinch of salt. It really is. I think it is healthy, it is a blessing, to have a higher purpose. That is what I hope my medical career will be like in the future, since I am sure problems like these, or even much worse, cannot be evaded. I am going to work very hard to attain good results so that I may earn my place along those who own this higher purpose together.

Stay tuned for other obstacles I’ve faced while working at the hospital, during the Covid-19 crisis! I will make the links available here once I have written Part 2 and Part 3 of the little problems I’ve overcome while working. Bye for now 🙂

I am returning to campus NEXT SEMESTER in October!

This is my last blogpost regarding university before I go on hiatus yet again for my final assessment in three weeks time!

We have just received notice that all students of our university will be returning to campus for the October trimester, but only for tutorial and practical lab sessions. The 2 hour lecture classes for each course will still be conducted online. Hooray! I truly think that is a great combination. It does not drain us with having to attend university daily, and gives us an occasional change in environment which I wholeheartedly believe would be healthy for my academic performance. I just think it is the best balance ever, being able to attend physical lab sessions WHILST attending lecture classes from home which would need rapt concentration and silence for taking important notes; and I would honestly campaign for this arrangement were it possible. Unfortunately, we will probably return to physical lectures eventually, when the coronavirus has died down completely.

It’s already WEEK 12 now of my first semester at university. I have just completed my second round of mini tests (known as Test 2) in my first semester, with nothing left but a Biology full report and two presentations (one live and one prerecorded) for two different courses, before we have to ramp up the effort for our Final Assessment, known as F.A.. That will be in Week 15!

Which is REALLY soon.

Over the past few weeks all I have been doing is study – I mean, there’s not much to do, is there, since we are studying online and due to the COVID situation. But it’s been very fun, asking our lecturers for help with questions past 11pm at night, and laughing in astonishment (and immense gratefulness) when they actually reply; or judging our coursemates solely based on their Microsoft Teams profile pictures, and recognizing them by voice, since no one ever turns their cameras on. Although now I definitely cannot survive without a computer, and using it for long hours make me feel rather uncomfortable – I think I may be quite sensitive to the emitted blue light.

I have submitted a mini “research paper” for my English assignment, which my little four people group and I will be presenting to our English lecturer on Week 13 – next week. We have worked hard and long on this assignment, learning so much through reading all sorts of scholarly articles and research journals on our chosen subject, Medical Errors, and painstakingly citing each and every source we use according to a strict format. We have also picked up a few software skills along the way, such as discovering the screenshot function on Microsoft Word and the screen recording function on Powerpoint; which, when you are in our position of really needing that function to conduct your project, is a wonderful joy and surprise.

There are, of course, a few funny things that happened along the way. During a math lecture, a boy was shocked to discover that inverse tangent 1 got him a value of 50, instead of 45, on his scientific calculator. He voiced his concern in front of a Teams Lecture meeting of about a 100 people. “Inverse Tangent 1 = 50?” our lecturer said calmly. “Then you need to throw your calculator away. Your calculator is damaged.”

“Really ah?” the boy’s voice rang throughout a meeting of 100 people, and he laughed uncertainly. He sent a photo of his calculator, and our lecturer eventually found out that he had set his calculator to a different mode, resulting in the wrong value.

“Your calculator is high,” quipped another boy in the meeting chatbox, meaning high on alcohol and rather dizzy. “The calculator’s value is also a bit high,” commented yet another, because the correct value should have been 45. Finally, the boy with the malfunctioning calculator replied in the chat.

“High on weed,” he agreed.

Then our lecturer ignored the chatting, as he usually does, and ended it with the best touch. “So, you don’t need to throw your calculator away. It is still a very good calculator.”

Alongside all these, I have also been trying to make notes for each of my lectures, knowing full well that my big final assessment is drawing near. The perks of online learning is that we get to review old lecture videos, pause whenever we like, take a rest when we need to, and begin again with renewed purpose. We also get to take screenshots from our lectures and compile them into notes and print them out! At least, that is what I do for my own learning. Being able to use the Windows 10 screenshotting function, Snip and Sketch, is truly a useful thing. I have printed many Whiteboard notes (Whiteboard is a virtual whiteboard, with markers of all colours, true to its name) from our lecturers. Our lecturers also are able to change between the colourful markers easily, so that our lecturer writing look something like this:

Really love the digital rainbow marker pen.

I have mixed feelings about studying online and in real life. I AM yearning to attend classes on campus for the first time too, as I have never been on campus for any studies whatsoever due to the coronavirus.

However, online learning has so many benefits. There are less distractions, there is so much opportunity for further reading and exploration of internet resources, and I am better able to care for my personal needs specific to myself. I also compete with myself only and no one else, which leads me to set my own standards and not be complacent if others around me are doing worse, or become disappointed if others are doing way better.

It is, in short, a controlled environment whereby I am the thermostat.

Now, I really must go! It is the weekend and this is the precious time which I have to fully utilize and catch up with my work.

Goodbye for now!

~Rachel, 15 August 2020.

*Disappointed update: With the COVID situation now, the returning of campus in October, my second semester has been cancelled, with all classes back to being online. Now I think our entire foundation will be online, and some.

I do hope that we can at least begin our degree in real life. I do want to meet all my MBBS coursemates in real life and see their faces.

What you didn’t know about my blog…!

Hey everyone! I have not been blogging for more than 3 weeks now and I have SO much to tell you. My first semester is almost up, I am just done with my second round of mini tests and will be briefly updating you on a bit of my life in ANOTHER blog post after this before I go on hiatus again for my final assessment for the five courses I am taking this first semester, which will be here in no time. But first, I would like to share with you something you didn’t know about my blog.

The truth is…

I actually have only about 3 viewers average per blog post.

The reason why it has not been growing much is also due to my hesitancy to spread it on various platforms to give it a name. Although I know full well the means to get a blog to grow, I prefer to let it find its own way, given time.

This is because a lot of the things and events that I’m sharing here are semi-personal. In fact, if you have subscribed / been a reader of my blog for sometime, you would have noticed they contain snippets of the lives of other people I have met as well, such as my experience as a teenager working at a hospital in February and March this year (2020) and a tiny snippet of my interactions with patients at the hospital here. I am easily inspired by beautiful people, and the smallest of things make me define a person as beautiful; so if I can’t bear to write sparingly, I must share sparingly, in respect for my and their lives lived.

That is why this blog has not gained much traction, but for now I am happy with it that way.

I might give up on online fiction pieces I am working on, etc, but not this blog. I would like to continue working on this for as long as I can, throughout my life. It is not only be a place for me to share my story with you, it will also become a documentation of the roads I have tread for myself to relive years later.

To my current readers: I am so happy you have chosen to follow me on this journey. Thank you for being a silent supporter of my endeavours.

In my next blogpost, which I will write right after this, I will update you on the things that have happened in my university life recently! Hop over to the next page here!! 😀