The World According To...

Jumping on the blogging bandwagon

Monday, June 16, 2008

Are YOU ready?

On the cover of the current issue of TIME magazine: How to Survive a Disaster. The article summarises several key points to beat the odds, and come out alive.
1. It's a matter of preparation. If you never anticipate it, you can be pretty sure you won't be ready to deal with it.
2. Panic can be your friend. Supposedly, animals play dead to discourage predators from attacking. Naturally, if this is your response in a crisis, it may not have the desired effect. TIME reports that many survivors have reported feeling an overwhelming urge to stop moving during the incident. Often, what snaps them out of the stupor is thinking of loved ones, especially children. I find that quite easy to understand, and if I had children of my own, I'd want to fight to be with them as long as I could. How do we deal with this "deer in the headlights" phenomenon? Firedrills! Yes, that waste-of-time exercise that seems to only reinforce the belief if a fire breaks out, we will all indeed perish, actually secretly teaches our brains how to get out of tight corners and hairy situations. Watching the stewardess pretend to blow up the life-jacket on your 1000th flight may save your life.
3. We all have our role to play. Identity shapes behaviour. I can identify with that. In a stressful or new situation, I revert to whatever I'm most comfortable doing. Sometimes it's carefully and obsessively copying and rewriting notes when I should be planning a new strategy. Other times, it's baking enough to feed an army, when I should be paying my bills. The good news is, Doctors tend to act like Doctors. We triage patients, check vital signs and administer CPR. The basal instincts kick in. A sense of responsibility, and the experience to act instinctively, allow one to lead in situations where others tend to follow.
4. How one person made a difference. Risk Rescorla's belief and dedication made the changes that saved 2,687 lives on 9/11. He was one man fighting against the system, but he stuck it out, and it paid off. This is something I know in theory but am still struggling to put into practice. I need to believe that I can do something, before anyone else will.
The article was referring to physical disasters - earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks etc. I think these points apply to all disasters, including the emotional ones we battle with on a much more regular basis.
Try them out, I'm going to.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Everything and more

The husband's birthday is tomorrow and I have nothing to give him. Thankfully he's identified some camera equipment that he wants, but doesn't need, and has decided that that will do. Terrible wife aren't I?? I also organised dinner with his friends, but didn't make it a surprise because I had to find out if he wanted a big do or a small one. I guess I should have known the answer.
One of our friends who is coming to dinner said they thought long and hard about it, and came to the conclusion that he has everything. Gladly, the birthday boy came to the same conclusion yesterday evening while chatting in the car on the way home (thanks sweetie).
I don't think I've ever felt that sort of contentment in my life. Or that I ever will. Maybe it's just built into my nature? I'm married to the eternal optimist, who always sees the silver lining in the cloud, and whose glass is always half-full. He's married to the woman looking at everything through mud-tinted glasses, and who always chooses the worst possible interpretation of any scenario. I guess we must compliment each other in this aspect...
I'm learning to be more grateful for what I have (that is the lesson to be learnt here), but it's an uphill battle that needs constant reinforcement. Which is surprising if you consider objectively what I do have. Relative health, a lovely home, supportive family, caring in-laws, a stimulating job (ok, so I could earn more), and of course a wonderful husband. What more could I possibly want?
Take stock of your life. Chances are, you'll find it adds up to more than you realised.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Duty to teach, duty to learn

I'm on rant-age today, everything seems to get my goat. One of my tirades led to the realisation that I was wrong before. You don't get a choice when it comes to Medicine. It's a career. Not a job. It's not one of those professions where you can say "I'm on holiday, I'm not a doctor anymore." If someone needs help, you give it. It's your duty, it's a moral obligation, and if you deny someone in need, it's negligence. Yes, I know that this subject has been debated before, but as I said, I'm on a rant-age. And this is my blog, so I'm right. Of course feel free to add your comments, presumably you're a friend, so you know that I may bark, but I don't (seldom) bite.

One of my grouses today (and I'm not sure how I landed there since I'm not even a clinician at the moment) was the use and abuse of junior staff. Departments everywhere claim to focus on training, not just service, especially for trainees. These poor guys pay almost 20% of their take-home salary to be part of a programme that is supposed to teach them how to be good specialists. The seniors are supposed to teach, not just use the warm body to do work that they deem too boring for themselves to bother with. Of course, doining menial work comes with the territory, Medicine is an apprenticeship after all. As a trainee, we don't go in expecting a 9-5 job, or a 5 day work week. We know that being available when staffing is short, or when emergencies arise, is part of the job description. The nature of the work means that someone has to be responsible every second, of every day. And inevitably, that means covering for each other. We may complain, but we know this at the bottom of our hearts.

As we get more senior, we inherit people to take care of, and to teach. At first, it's a scary responsibility. Trusting someone else is infinitely more difficult than relying on yourself. How unnerving that the minute you get to the stage where you think "ah, I can finally take care of myself", someone gives you a newbie to look after. What compounds the issue is that this isn't a arena where a mistake can be erased by a click of the 'backspace' button. Unfortunately, people's lives are in our hands. So you learn to delegate. This is a good thing! It's an extremely underrated talent - being able to appraise and appropriately place others responsible for work you are overseeing. We certainly cannot do everything ourselves, nor are we expected to. Often, we feel ourselves sinking under the pressures of what we feel we must achieve, when in reality all we have to do is get some help. But I digress, that is a discussion for another time.

This is turning into a very long rant.

I will try to get back to the point. We have a duty to teach. Only when we teach those below us, will they ever be qualified to take over the reins. It's not enough to put them in the driving seat when it's all on autopilot. If they are only to be the babysitter, or the labourer, then we will forever have to be the mother, or the foreman (haha, that sounds so ridiculous, but the analogy works for me right now). I assume the barriers to teaching are laziness, and fear. As I said earlier, it's a lot easier to do a job yourself than to correct a learner through it. And what if one day the pupil surpasses the master? While we are young, and have energy, at the peak of our careers there seems no reason to groom the next generation. What happens when we tire of it all? And we want to move on to something else? If there is no one to take our place, it won't be an easy transition. The irresponsible among us (and I fear I am not being too harsh), will simply let go and leave. Sink or swim, he doesn't care what happens to those he left behind. But those of us who feel the weight of our profession, will agree with me that part of the duty is to ensure the next generation can carry on.

I realise i have only addressed the first half of my title! The second half is easy (mainly because I'm not tired and all ranted out. And I assume you are bored of me too). Those of us who are to inherit the throne must prove ourselves worthy. The reins are not going to be handed over to any Tom, Dick or Harry. It takes a lot of work to be a good doctor, and least of all, a sense of responsibility and humility. While we are training, there should be no task too small to do well (of course, buying the team drinks from Houseman canteen does not count). My two cents worth is, whenever you start bitching about the s*** job you just got arrowed to do, think about whether there may be any hidden benefit that your boss thinks you may gain. If you don't see it, consult my husband, as he is eternally optimistic and positive-looking. If he can't find it, you're right, you're being used and abused. Too bad, we have no union.

Alrighty, didn't know I had so much to say, have a good week ahead!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Easy Peasy

TS and I discovered Colbar this evening. Yes, I know, WAAAAAAAY behind all the trendy people. It's tucked away off the AYE at Portsdown road, conveniently on the way home from NUH.
Holland village seemed too 'busy', vivocity is getting boring, didn't feel like eating duck rice, and I was not in the mood to cook. Instead, TS had chicken curry (not spicy, very coconutty, very more-ish with rice, 3 pieces of chicken) and I had a steak (oddly tender, nicely medium, tasty if mushy fries/wedges, canned button mushrooms! and an egg). Rounded off with a can of Kickapoo, and dinner came to S$30 for two. Not coffee shop prices, but reasonable considering the ease at which we settled the whole issue of dinner. We'll be back.
It's a relaxed sort of place, wear slippers and shorts, sit outside. Pietrasanta just opposite is also nice (ate there last week) but considerably more expensive (S$50-80 per head) and more "effort". Cicada is in the same complex, but looked prohibitively atas for the kind of dinner we had in mind.
On Sunday, I was supposed to da-bao back dinner from Vivocity (I had a pedicure, shiok. Now need to find some open-toe shoes that I can wear to work.), TS wanted Carl's Jr. but it is in direct violation of my 'diet', and besides, the queue was too long. I popped into Cold Storage instead, and bought a couple of beef tenderloin fillets and some mushrooms. We had the steaks pan fried in a dry non-stick pan over HIGH heat for about 3 min per side, then sliced and run under the grill blanketed by sharp cheddar cheese. When the cheese was melted, the whole thing was rolled up in a tortilla with baby spinach (had to sneak in the veges somehow) and eaten with a touch of Linghams. Ta-dah: TS thought it was even BETTER than the portobello mushroom burger he had been looking forward to! And it only took 15 min from the time I stepped into the house to the food being on the table. We were starving by then of course, and so we inhaled it all without taking a single photo. You'll just have to trust me when I say it was Goooood, and that it will be made again. I must remember the onions next time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A job or a career?

If you google "job vs career", you'll get 358,000 results. Obviously I am not the only person pondering this question.

According to Cambridge Dictionaries Online -
1. job (EMPLOYMENT), noun , the regular work which a person does to earn money. Interestingly, 'boob job', 'dead-end job' and 'inside job' also appear.
2. The definition for career is essentially 'job'. Big help.

Webster's English Dictionary states:
1. job \'ja:b\ n: something that has to be done : TASK; a specific duty, role, or function; a regular remunerative position
2. ca.reer \k*-'ri(*)r\ n: a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling

So which one do you have? And which one do you want?
How did I go through the last 5 years not realising that there was a difference, and that I had a choice to make?
What is my answer? (why are there so many questions in this paragraph?)
That's the million dollar question.
(What a cop-out post you may say. Truthfully, I don't know what the answer is yet. But when I do, I will share.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It's the simple things...

I've made an amazing discovery. Weekends.

For five years, I never had them unless I was on leave. Ward rounds, followed by changes, pre-meds, morning OT cover, on calls, pre-calls, post-calls, I could count the number of times I had a full Saturday and Sunday off since I graduated. And don't get me started about public holidays.

I sound bitter, don't I? Well I'm not. We all know it comes with the territory. None of us gets into this line thinking it's a 9-5 job. But at 7pm on a Friday night when the surgeon is still buried somewhere unrecognizable, and you're on call the next day, I'm afraid that insight goes right out of the window.

In my new job, I get weekends. (Am still waiting for the bomb to drop that this is just the honeymoon period). Two weeks ago, when Monday was Vesak day, TS and I even went up to KL, had a lovely few days with the McPs, and didn't have to take any leave! Does the rest of the world really take these things for granted? It just blew my mind!

So now, I'm getting used to having so much time to myself! (ourselves). Lazing in bed on a Saturday morning, doing a whole day of nothing and discovering that I can repeat that feat again the next day, these are just amazing experiences for me.

This weekend, TS and I went to Sungei Buloh with some friends. We go every 6 months or so, and since it's the school holidays we decided to take our 10 year old nephew along. Black skies and thunder tempted me to pull the covers up and stay in bed (7.30am rise and shine should be reserved for weekdays) but TS said we had to go anyway. The weather turned out to be just right, not too hot, and no rain. Unfortunately it was high-tide, so we didn't see as much as we have on previous visits. I think the kids had a good time, and even though it wasn't much exercise it beats sitting on the couch...

We're planning a trip to Chek Jawa on the 28th (Saturday) so sign up soon!

(P.s. it seems the bosses work weekends. Must I really give this up one day??)


I got my hands on TS's Oz pics from a YEAR ago!! Very very sorry Geert, I promise they are ON THE WAY.
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