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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Doctors have bad days too

AS a doctor I have always been asked questions by enthusiastic parents about the job.

Among the questions are: “How is it being a doctor?”, “What do you think if my children become doctors?” and “How much do you earn per month as a doctor?”

Despite an overflow into this profession, many parents are still willing to invest in their children pursuing medicine. Recently, there was an incident in my clinic that still remains in my mind.

There was a patient complaining of the bad attitude of another medical practitioner. He was unhappy and alleged that the doctor did not explain to him politely and treat him appropriately.

I was not present at that time to comment on it, but tried to resolve the misunderstanding amicably by saying doctors too had bad days.

To my surprise, the patient replied: “To me, doctors should always have good days.”

The doctor–patient relationship is unique. It’s like a weighing scale that needs commitment from both parties to maintain its balance.

Undoubtedly, a patient sees a doctor when he or she is unwell and all patients deserve tender loving­ care from their doctors.

But how many patients have done anything to show their appreciation for what their doctors had done for them?

This is a routine day for a doctor. In government/private hospital settings, a doctor has to do ward rounds every morning at 7am, usual­ly examining 30 to 50 patients, depending on “good or bad days”.

After the rounds, the doctor continues seeing follow-up patients at the Out Patient Department (OPD) and that would easily be around 50 patients and more before late afternoon.

After the OPD service, the doctor has to do ward rounds again to review the patients.

On average, a doctor will see around 80 patients per day (working from 7am–5pm). This is one patient every 7.5 minutes.

That is why it is very common to hear patients saying that they waited two hours in the long queue, only to be treated by the doctor in a few minutes.

There is always a tendency for doctors to divide the time unequally with every patient, on a case-by-case basis. In complicated or life-threatening cases, more time is spent with the patient.

In a general practitioner’s clinic, the conditions are no better. The general practitioner is virtually trapped in the small consultation room for a whole day, seeing patients with various ailments.

Like every human being, doctors also face obstacles in life, besides the challenges from career, family, friends, etc.

Long working hours, patient load, stressful working environment and poor quality of life are issues faced by doctors.

We cannot be smiling happily all the time. Sometimes, doctors may look cold and stern. Yet, we try our best to treat the illness of each patient in every possible way.

We uphold the Hippocratic Oath that we took before joining this sacred profession. The essence of the oath is “Above all, do no harm”.

Yes, you may be right that doctors earn well. To most of the doctors, the money that we earn is merely numbers in a bank account. We might not even have a chance to spend it all.

A word of thanks, a small card from patients will truly enrich our days.

By DR H.B. CHEE Muar

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