November 11, 2010 by Pagalavan Letchumanan
For Future Doctors: Housemanship, Medical Officer and Postgraduate Training (Part 2)
In this Part 2, I will write more about what to expect after finishing your 2 years Housemanship posting in Ministry of Health.
1) Compulsory Service
I am sure everyone knows about the compulsory service for doctors in government service. According to Medical Act 1970, a medical graduate has to undergo compulsory service with the government for at least 4 years. This includes the Housemanship which is now 2 years. This means that you need to serve the government for another 2 years before you decide to leave the service.
2) District/Rural postings
As I have said in my first part, after completion of your housemanship, you will likely be transferred to rural clinics or district hospitals. With the recent influx of large number of doctors, almost everyone will be transferred to rural areas, mainly Sabah and Sarawak. You can see this from various letters posted in almost every newspaper recently, embarrassingly by parents of “so-called” grown up doctors!
From my experience, district posting is a wonderful experience. Working alone without anyone to consult immediately, gives you a lot of experience. Remember, other than X-rays and some simple blood test, you don’t have anything else in these hospitals. Usually there will be about 3-5 Medical Officers (MO) in each district hospitals. When you are “on-call”, you are all alone and need to manage the A&E department as well as all the wards including obstetrics cases. It is really scary at times, especially if you are working in district hospitals which are far away from the nearest General Hospital. If you are preparing to sit for any exams then this is the time to do your revision as the workload is generally lower than in general hospitals.
The same goes for those who are posted to health clinics (Klinik Kesihatan). These clinics are usually situated in rural and semirural areas. Most of the time there will be 1-2 MOs in each clinic. The major bulk of patients that you see in these clinics are antenatal and outpatient cases. There will also be a lot of administrative work to do in these clinics including school visits, running various health campaigns and public health talks. In cases of any outbreaks, you will be called to assist in containing the outbreak. Basically you are the primary healthcare providers. Many doctors do not like the administrative work that they are supposed to do, and the meetings that you need to attend!
Even though it is a good experience to do rural/district postings, please do not stay long in these clinics/hospitals if you intend to do postgraduate studies. A maximum of 1 year should be adequate. The reason I say so is because you will lose the momentum to further your studies after some time of good life in these centres. Since the workload is lower, you will get carried away with relax life compared to your housemanship training.
This rural/district postings are usually given extra points when you apply for your Master’s programme even though it does not guarantee a place. At the same time you can use your free time to prepare for your exams like MRCP Part 1, MRCOG Part 1 etc etc. After passing your Part 1, you can request to be transferred to the General Hospital for continuation of your training. Again, this may become a problem in the future as the number of post may be limited and it may be increasingly difficult to get a place in bigger hospitals.
I think people who grumble about going to rural and district postings should just give-up medicine. If you choose medicine to help and treat sick people, then these postings is where you really see the real life of people. You will learn a lot about their social life and the struggle they go through daily which you do not see when you work in general hospitals. You will also realise that people here appreciate you better than urban people. I would advise each and every doctor to do rural/semirural and district postings for at least a year after completing your housemanship.