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.

I have JUST found a sliver of extra memories from my job at the hospital.

Only just yesterday night, or rather, at 1am this very morning, I was telling you that being human has already started to erode away at the memory of my priceless experiences working at a hospital. And in that same blogpost, I had said the one thing I wanted most was probably to remember what I’d heard.

Until now, I probably only remember what I’d seen. The problem with remembering what you see is that eventually, you end up only being able to picture the layout of the emergency unit, but you can’t remember many specific scenes at all. All you remember is how the counter looked like, how the lift smelled like, how cold it was in the wards etc. Because when you’re in the same small space for long hours and for two months straight, all the scenes merge together to form a blurred image. Unless you had moved around much more, then you may be able to recall more specific scenes. In fact, I have read about this somewhere before, and that is how the human brain works. This is called “spatial recognition“.

(Spatial recognition is not to be confused with “spatial recollection“, which is another important concept I will be sharing with you in the not-so-near future. But, if you’re curious, I’ll include their meanings down below. I have even simplified it for your understanding!)

Actually? I’m here to tell you that I’d found some recorded moments, knowing that I would want to remember.

Just now, I sat on my bed and listened to the recordings on my phone. There was a lot of background noise in each one, but that’s what you get with low quality phone recorders. There was one recording of my high school classmates collective laughter. There were two of my retail colleagues promoting our travel products to our friendly customers.

And there were about six at the hospital, of my colleagues chatting and laughing. In one, I heard a baby crying in the background. It was probably receiving an injection or an IV insertion…. haha. Doctors spoke on the phone and nurses bustled around the registration counter. I could only make out their voices and no words at all, but truly that itself is all I am looking for.

Six short recordings is hardly anything compared to the two full months I’d experienced. Yet it is certainly still something. I’m happy to have found these memories.

Spatial recognition: Here, space (spatial) literally means empty space. Remembering and recognizing things by being able to picture precisely where those events took place. That’s how the human brain works.

Spatial recollection: Here, space (spatial) refers to time. Remembering things by spaced out re-reading of material, to slowly commit something to memory. If you want to remember something, you usually read it once tomorrow, once in a couple of days, then once next week, then next month. That’s how the human memory works.

I’m turning eighteen, and I’m finally getting my own room!

Guess what: I’m finally getting my own room. I’m so excited! 😛

Me in my new room
8 May 2020
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

My dad is famous for giving us false hope. In 2017, he asked casually if I wanted my own room. “Nah,” I said passively, as I always did to many of his questions, thinking if he really wanted to give me one, he would give me one. Expressing too much enthusiasm to rewards would raise suspicion, so I tend to play it cool. He didn’t give me one that year, and I wasn’t too surprised; my dad was just exploring possibilities.

In 2018 he said, more definitively this time, that I should have my own room. “You need one,” he said, “To study for your major exam, SPM. It will decrease distractions. We may give you one next year.” (My major exam was in 2019.) I did not voice objection. It sounded like it was going to happen!

He never gave me the room in 2019, and I spent an eternity in our studyroom, specifically meant for the son or daughter who was going to take a major exam that year. I was sitting for SPM that year. The door remained closed at all times, and I alternated between doing model exam papers and taking a “quick lie-down nap” on the backless, rock-solid, head-cracking wooden bench that was my seat….

A week ago, my dad brought up the subject of my own room again. This time, he drew up a small map of how he felt the layout should be like.

Then yesterday, on the 8th of May 2020, it really happened!

Dad chose the 8th because “faat” in Cantonese means eight, which sounds exactly like the word “prosperity”.

So with lots of sweat, groans and head scratching in contemplation of where everything should go, the four of us heaved and yanked everything that was not mine out, shoved it haphazardly into the room next to it, and arranged my bed and bedside table into my room.

Me in my new room 2
8 May 2020
Credits: Mother of Blog author

Dad promised to put up a new wooden sliding door for my room, sometime after the COVID situation has improved. This is because we have always been using the existing plastic sliding door from the previous owner of the house. We have already been living in this house for more than ten years!

(Update: It is 28th of January, 2021 one and still no news of the wooden door. Oh well. I’m happy with my old door anyway!)

After that, we laughed when we saw what a disaster the room next door looked like. Time to decide where some of these should go…. in that room. How terribly overcrowded! My new room instead appeared spick and span, for now. University may just bring a tornado through it!

Finally, I have my own personal space. I can’t wait to decorate or personalize it a little bit with pretty things. I may find something next time, when I’m shopping outside. Let’s hope the coronavirus situation improves soon!

Getting A New Computer During The Coronavirus Season!

Ahh, dad! That might just be too much disinfectant for a computer!

Blog author, Rachel Tan HX, 18
Our new computer being quarantined at a far corner of our house!
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX
26 April 2020

“List out three things you might want for your reward, for getting 9As in SPM (major exam),” my father announced, “And I’ll either choose from there, or if none are acceptable, I shall get you a physics reference book.”

This came as no surprise to me, as my father had done the same for my younger brother, who had gotten straight As (9As) for his PT3 exam. We both knew our father would never get us reference books for our reward. But we were also well aware that he rarely approved of our requests, even if some of the things we ask for will not cost a cent.

For instance, I can ask for the opportunity to have a part-time job / do volunteer work as my reward, and he may not allow it due to our priorities as a student.

Eventually, my father decided to give me my third choice: a new computer. I had asked for one purely for practicality purposes. “You need one.” He agreed, as we watched my Windows Vista try to load a google page for five minutes now. “I’ll get you one, and you shall use it to start studying for your foundation leading to university.”

So my father went and bought me one online from Dell, as I studied math Chapter 2: Sequences And Series from a form 6 book in the next room, under his strict orders. The only knowledge I had of it was the stomping of his feet as he strode to and fro his and my mother’s room, trying to settle the online payment, and “Rachel! Your computer will arrive in a few days.” while I mmphed and ohhed absentmindedly, as I attempted to expand (5+7x) to the power of 9 using the binomial theorem.

The computer was delivered to our home three days ago on the 23rd of April.

Prior to that, my father had walked out to buy a bottle of disinfectant.

“Now,” dad mused, “where shall I begin?” Once he began, though, he couldn’t stop. Here is a photo of him spraying the CPU:

Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX
23 April 2020

Ahh, dad! That might just be too much disinfectant for a computer!

“Better safe than sorry,” replied my father, in response to our protests. He sprayed the keyboard, then the mouse. “Safe than sorry.” We watched as liquid soap started pooling on the CPU’s surface. He sprayed viciously through the tiny holes where the CPU’s cooling fan and harddrive were supposed to be. Psst. Psst. Psssssssssstttt. Dad stood back.

“I hope there won’t be a short circuit inside.” He admitted.

We lifted the CPU and put it in a far corner of the house.

The next morning, dad said: “I turned the CPU upside down and sprayed the bottom again!” causing me to gasp in worry. “Bad thing is, this disinfectant is not like hand sanitizer, it doesn’t evaporate off. When I lifted it, I saw a puddle of soap underneath.”

I opened my mouth.

“But stay calm. Stay calm,” said dad. “We’ll open everything up and blow it with a hairdryer after five days.”

Utmost suspense. Will the computer kaput or live to see tomorrow?

My Job As A Hospital Patient Care Assistant

Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX, 18

Disclaimer: This blogpost is specifically targeted to help or inform students who are considering or are studying medicine, and is less tailored toward healthcare professionals or the public. This blogpost is NOT written to garner followers or to be made viral, which is why this blog will not be intentionally publicized.

As some of you already know, I spent the past two months working at a hospital as a patient care assistant. Being hospital staff, I have learnt so much just through observation and listening. Today, I would like to share with you what is required of my job as a PCA.

First of all is admin work. Contrary to what the position “Patient Care” Assistant suggests, most of the work of a PCA is actually done sitting behind the counter. The admin is known as the person who handles the computer and does all the paperwork. My job is to register patients in the system, trace their old medical records, bill patients, make sure all their details along with their diagnosis, attending doctor, and time visited are recorded into a large patient log book. The paperwork consists of various types of hospital forms, including the prescription form for medicine, x-ray form, lab form, insurance forms, Covid 19 test form, and the various charge forms (billing) for nursing procedures, disposable items, doctor consultation fees and usage of medical equipment. Then there are the phone calls, which could be internal (coming from the cashier next door, general ward, x-ray, lab, HR, marketing or any department within the hospital) or external (from patients, doctors from other hospitals, etc). You have to remember all of the extension numbers from the various departments, so that with one glance you know where the call is coming from before you even pick up the phone. When a patient comes with health insurance or a medical card, we have to call up the insurance company to check if there is coverage, then request for a guarantee letter(GL), which can take from 10 minutes up to 2 hours, by which time we would have to call up yet again to enquire about the GL status.

You might groan in boredom when you listen to all the work I have described, but there’s so much to absorb all at once, you have absolutely no time to be bored. Try it, and you will wonder how admin work can be so difficult to keep up with, especially during your first few weeks!

Secondly, a PCAs job is to do despatch work. If today I am assigned morning shift, I must make the beds or change any bedsheets or pillow cases which are dirty and send them up in a laundry bag. I must record the number of soiled linen sent up and request for new ones. Once in a while, I will also be called up to collect items from purchasing, such as gloves, face masks, small tubes for collecting blood or urine; or to send or collect medical equipment to or from CSSD (Central Sterile Services Department). I also must collect lab and x-ray reports when they are ready.

Thirdly, in light of Covid 19, more demands have been placed on healthcare personnel, namely triaging and assisting the doctor during covid screening. As an unlicensed person, I can only triage. Triaging is, in simple terms, deciding on the order of which patients should be attended to, based on the seriousness of their condition. I will ask every person that wants to enter the hospital a list of questions that checks for Covid 19 symptoms or possible contact, while wearing my complete PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

A fourth requirement is not specific to PCAs, but rather for all staff working in the emergency unit, and that is having 3 shifts. For instance, PCAs working for the specialist clinic work office hours, but I happen to be given a job as a PCA under the emergency unit, so every day I can either be doing morning, evening or night shift, depending on a duty roster that is updated weekly. Once in a while, I will also be asked to do a double shift for 14 hours straight.

Finally, we reach the part you have been waiting for: patient care! I have transfered patients with leg injuries onto a wheelchair, wheeling them from their car into the emergency unit at 2am. I have pushed patients on wheelchairs to get their x-ray done, or on beds to do a supine x-ray (lying face up), both often connected to saline drips. I have lifted a boy’s leg with a hornet sting to place a tenapad underneath; held a crying, struggling little girl’s head as the doctor did stitches on her chin; brought water for an alcoholic suffering from SOB (shortness of breath); made friendly conversation with anxious senior patients; and translated entire doctor consultations as best as I could to many mandarin-spreaking patients (I struggled to translate all the medical jargon to Mandarin, though).

I have also dealt with two particularly serious cases that I will refrain from mentioning from the time being, as those will be left to another post where I must ensure patient confidentiality, while at the same time bringing the story to you.

Those are the main five duties I have as a Patient Care Assistant! If you are a teenager and have tried working in a hospital, or even have any sort of work experience, I would be delighted to hear from you.

After all, I set up this blog for one main reason: to write the informative, or healthcare-related blogposts, from a Malaysian medical student’s perspective starting from her teenage years, that I have always wanted to read but could never find on the Internet. So I went on and did it myself! Now, I hope to bring forth the stories to you. 🙂

Small note: Although this blog is meant for everyone, my main intended audience is for my peers and next generations who are thinking of, planning to or are currently pursuing a career in healthcare, therefore much of my content will be tailored to our understanding.