October 16, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – When the clock shows 5pm, it means nothing to a hospital doctor, and it definitely does not mean the day is ending.
Stressing that long hours were part of a doctor’s life, Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) director Dr Zulkarnain Mohd Rawi said while many young doctors felt they were being bullied, it might also be because they could not cope with the demands of the job.
“To be a doctor, one has to be emotionally and psychologically tough. There are some who might be overly sensitive and are easily hurt when senior physicians tell them off,’’ he added.
Dr Zulkarnain was commenting on a survey by Malaysian Medical Association yesterday showing that 30% to 40% of all doctors nationwide experienced bullying, with 60% of junior doctors who participated in the survey confessing that they were made to work overtime every day.
He said he had a much tougher time back when he was a young doctor decades ago.
“Our seniors were very hard on us and called us derogatory names, but we took it all in a stride,’’ he said.
Dr Zulkarnain said he used to be put in charge of a full ward of 70 patients, while junior doctors today were given charge of a cubicle with eight patients at the most.
He urged young doctors and housemen to toughen themselves up because “as a physician, one puts service before self”.
A government doctor in Butterworth who wanted to be known as Dr Jay said “if one works in hospitals with many patients, it does not matter if you are a houseman or specialist, you cannot leave at 5pm,” he said.
Dr Jay, 41, believes some junior doctors do truly get bullied by superiors.
“I had colleagues come to me sharing their experiences.
“Even when these colleagues confide in us, they tell us not to tell anyone because the bullies are the ones that will give them the marks they need,” he said.
He said some doctors who were on contract depended on these “bullies” to renew their contracts.
However, Dr Jay said in his experience, cases of sexual harassment where he worked were never tolerated and were quickly dealt with.
He said he was glad the survey by Malaysian Medical Association was conducted.
A few other doctors willing to speak to The Star admitted that “some young doctors and housemen get pushed around and bullied”.
“The housemen suffer the most as they are regarded as being the lowest in the hierarchy and are at times even bullied by staff nurses,’’ said a 32-year-old medical officer.
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He admitted that bullying by consultants and specialists, which used to be rampant, had drastically gone down.
Another medical officer, in her 50s, who is head of a government clinic in Selangor, said people in her position were overworked.
“I am the medical officer in charge of the clinic but the head of the clinic is the family medical specialist.
“The specialist only sees patients. I see patients, do all the paperwork and even check the premises for Aedes mosquitoes without overtime and extra allowances,’’ she said.