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.

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.

Second week of lectures, done!

HEY! Where did all the time go? Is the second week of university done and gone already?


Week 1 mostly consisted of ice breaking and briefing sessions. (Click here to read about my very first week at university!) I am now done with week 2 of foundation in science, and this week has been a reasonably manageable one, and the pace has not picked up so much that I cannot catch up – not just yet.

This week, we have just been given some assignments to do, and I am learning to adapt to this different part of uni life that is having to complete tutorial questions and practical lab simulations before attending tutorial and practical classes respectively. In high school, we seldom had to complete anything before entering the classroom – homework was always given to us to do after the class.

This week may have felt a bit short because Monday was a public holiday for Malaysia, so there were only 4 days of lectures. Our lecturers did not hesitate to set replacement classes throughout the week and the next, to make up for lost time.

Due to a replacement class for math on Thursday morning and a combined scientific report writing and APA citation & referencing workshop on Friday, the last two weekdays of Week 2 were FULLY BOOKED. That is effectively 6 hours of (four) lectures on Thursday, with breaks in between, and more than 5 hours of lectures on Friday, with no break in between – I was literally seated in front of my computer, attending live sessions from 8 – 1.40pm back-to-back. Non-stop.

“Welcome to medicine,” said my father, when he saw me hurrying upstairs after lunch, to continue with the third lecture on Thursday. “That’s probably how studying for your medical degree will be like.”

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Medicine must be way busier than the second week of our foundation year.” I huffed and puffed as I bounded up the last of the steps, not allowing myself to be deterred by my busy schedule – but only because I knew studying medicine must be a ton lot more hectic than this, and if I could not survive this now, then there was no need to talk about going up to the degree level. So this little bit of busyness has to be beneath me. I do not mean that in an arrogant way, but simply because with the start of my path in medicine, I know I must shift my very definition of “busy”.

Still, I am thoroughly enjoying the new experiences of online classes AND the different way of studying required at university, despite being stuck at home 24/7.

It’s Saturday and I am using the weekend to do some self-studying of Cell Biology. Time to throw myself into the third week!

College study tips: Is it easier to remember, or to forget?

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Credits: Pixabay

Remembering, the bane of all doctors and a highly significant contributor to their success in medical school and beyond.

How often do you try to recall something, only to realize the memory is already long faded and too late to trace back? Even worse, sometimes it feels as if it’s at the tip of your mind and you just. Can’t. Remember.

How often do you make silly mistakes, or do your brain cells feel completely drained, as you struggle to remember?

It certainly must be more difficult to remember.

But is it really?


Say I give you a polynomial equation: 9x^5/9+6x^4/2+x^3/5+7x^2/4+9x+8 = 0, and I ask you to memorize and repeat it back to me in five seconds. Then I ask you to try and forget a formula you’ve known from before – say the root-finding quadratic formula, in five seconds.

Does that first polynomial equation look easy to digest at all? Yet try as you might, you will find it ironically easier to memorize at least partially that polynomial jargon than trying to forget the quadratic formula that you have learnt before.

I am sure the concept of the above paragraph is nothing new to you. However, I am trying to put into concise terms to explain why we cannot give a blanket (general) answer to the question: “is it easier to remember or to forget”. We don’t remember things better just because it’s shorter and less complicated. It also depends on period of exposure – in other words, how long you’ve known it.

We are only human and are not able to over-compromise sleep or take in more knowledge than we possibly can a day. To excel in life, we must make connections with the things we learn. In this case, the transferable skill here is applying what you’ve learnt about memory from this blogpost to your study strategy!

It is learning to expose yourself, regularly but at the appropriate time, to the information you need to absorb. This is done through the well-known method called “spatial recollection“.

Spatial recollection is a scientifically proven method of recalling information through a series of carefully timed re-viewing of the information you need to absorb. It is said that when you’re trying to memorize something, you need to read and reread it the most times in the beginning, then once a week, then once a month perhaps. The neurons in our brains somehow process information in this manner.

Therefore in the beginning, it is crucial to pick your material up and go through it more than once at least. After that, your brain has a stronger hold on the information and it becomes less likely that you will forget it.

I have tried this method and found that it works greatly for me. Try this out in your study strategy, and I’m sure it will do wonders for you!