THEY say house job is the most precious phase of a doctor’s life. It is a post-graduation honeymoon period where you can confidently claim in front of ‘curious aunties’ that you are employed, and in most cases you also receive a monthly salary, also known as stipend. It is more of a slavery than an employment, but many are not even paid at all, which makes them nothing more than bonded labour.

Anybody who has suffered this year-long trauma knows how bad it actually is. During house job, one is expected to leave one’s self-respect at home when coming to hospital. Your department heads would not even realise for three months of the respective rotation that you exist, your consultants would not see you even if you are there all the time. However, as soon as you leave, they make sure that you pay the price for having the audacity to leave.

Your postgraduate trainers can then go to any extent to have you working, and may even force patients into peeing in their urine bags just to make you change those. Your seniors would take revenge of their recent house job traumas from you by going out of their way to humiliate you. The staff would keep reminding you that they are the permanent employees, while you are there for a short duration. Even patients would vent out their frustrations and take a U-turn in their statements when senior doctors, especially consultants, come on the morning round.

Two 30-hour calls a week in addition to the regular 8am-2pm duty means you are at your home for just two to three days a week, and that, too, for five to six hours at a stretch. You lose your energies, enthusiasm, creativity and innovation. The person who could set up and run multiple innovative organi-sations despite having a highly inertial administration in the medical school can only nod in utter obedience to the dumbest and harshest of opinions aired by some ‘senior’. The geek who topped the professional examination for five consecutive years becomes a goof who can never be on point when it comes to clinical diagnosis and treatment.

In short, a house officer is nothing more than a bin in whom everyone dumps off their toxicity. The cherry on the top is that even this brutally abused group is not united, and most of the times the house officers end up pulling each other’s leg, making it all even worse.

This is probably the mildest elaboration of a house officer’s life because I am quite a privileged house officer. I work in a departmental hospital with a minimal patient load, decent clientage, and a clean, well-equipped hospital. And I get time to study.

I even have discussions with my teachers whose house jobs ended decades ago. They all tell me that they were abused as house officers. Why? Because, they never got to know the reason for their suffering and they had no outlet to vent their frustration. All they could do was to show off the handful of fun moments, portray themselves as strong and happy people, never to revisit their traumas, and take their revenge from the next batch of house officers.

This is how doctors tend to lose their self-esteem as well as sense of empathy, humanity, creativity and innovation during their house jobs, and spend the rest of their lives as egoistic robots who only seek self-gratification, money and authority.

How many doctors in the country bring innovations to the table? How many of them are entrepreneurs? How many of them make an impact? How many of them leave a social legacy? How many of them develop skills besides clinical expertise? Barely any.

This happens because they are part of a hierarchy where they are either juniors or seniors, creating problems for each other, seeking gratification for their huge and vulnerable egos, and running in a race of being bigger doctors, rather than being better doctors. The tragic journey begins with the house job. It is time we broke this cycle of misery.

Dr Hajra Niaz
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2023

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