Inspiring work of a house officer — Thiyagar Nadarajaw

SEPTEMBER 25 — It has become a norm to read in the media the negative perception of house officers, house officers to be and even medical students, towards housemanship training and the supposedly difficult life of house officers. In response, for almost every complaint letters or articles written by house officers you do see a few senior doctors rebutting and criticising the house officers for sulking too much.

I am no exception either. I am often critical of about the 20% of house officers who have major attitude problems on top of having poor basic knowledge. Why am I so critical? Purely as it affects my patients’ well-being. Nothing else. Nothing personal.

Here I want to share a fantastic experience with an extraordinary house officer who could be an inspiration not only to fellow house officers but even to some of us, senior doctors.

I feel if I have time to complain about difficult house officers, I should also have time to compliment good ones. It may inspire other house officers. It may change the perception of senior doctors that there is still hope in the younger generation of doctors. 

About five months ago a group of new house officers reported to me early in the morning. I briefed them about the department’s expectation from house officers and our role in training fresh graduate doctors to become competent medical officers. After my “sermon” all of them walked away to their respective wards except for a particular house officer.

Hesitantly she asked me, “Can I ask you a favour?” And I thought. There goes another house officer who is going to ask for long leave at the beginning of her posting etc.

I was in for a surprise. She asked, “Can you allow me to teach the kids in the ward, like helping them with their homework and reading stories to them during my free time?”

I was indeed confused and asked her, “You are a house officer right. How are you going to find time?”

“Yes. There is enough time for me to complete my work and also help the kids. I promise it will not interfere with my work,” was her straightforward answer. Taken aback, I nodded OK and carried on with my ward rounds. I was certain this house officer was one of those who was trying to impress the head of department.

I was dead wrong! This house officer was one of those who you never see complaining. Never sulked. You correct her mistake, even a bit harshly, sometimes, she takes it positively and proves that she learns from her mistakes and never repeats it.

She finishes her night shift, goes home for a short break and comes back to do what she seems to enjoy immensely i.e. helping kids with reading etc.

I did not say anything to compliment her until she completed her posting so as not to be labelled as being a biased head of department by others.

Once she left the department I asked her what has been motivating her to do what she does. This is what she told me, in her own words:

What motivates me to do community work is actually passion. I started out as a volunteer at various homes since 18 years old, right after my SPM. Ever since then I just could not stop as I find so much joy and happiness in serving others.  I enjoy spending time with children at the shelter, refugee children, disabled children and of course elderly as well.

The inner happiness that no money can buy is what truly motivates me. The fulfilment when I know I have the ability to make someone else’s day better. My work with various communities throughout the years has taught me so much and I realise the impact it brings. How one small act of kindness can change someone else’s day and sometimes life.

Best of all, you will learn something new about yourself every day. I also realise that by serving others I also abolish all negative thoughts from my head. All worries anger and sadness disappear when happiness, kindness and fulfilment flows in.

I have seen so many sad incidences in my life here in Malaysia, in our own Orang Asli villages as well as refugee homes and in Africa where basic necessities are not even met. Seeing their condition motivates me further to work hard to be someone (hopefully a paediatrician) in the future and serve them with greater meaning. I was in Africa for two months living with HIV-positive orphans in Kenya as a volunteer teacher. My trip there was an eye-opening experience and some things I have seen there that I could never have imagined. I vowed to myself, that one day I will go back and make a difference.

If you ask me to talk about this, I can go on and on without stopping but in a nutshell, I believe our destiny in life is to serve others and make others happy. By doing so without you realising, you will find your own true happiness.

Well done Dr Lim Yew Lyn! I am hoping to see you as a paediatrician within the next few years!

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

** Dr Thiyagar Nadarajaw is a Consultant Paediatrician in Alor Setar.

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