What does a House Officer (HO) do?

Chinese New Year is a time when one needs to do lots of explaining of what you have been up to in the past year. Having just graduated and now working as a house officer, people wonder what I actually do. Some think that I sit in the clinics like a typical GP will do. Many think that GPs of Family Doctors is a job that young doctors like I do and when one becomes a senior doctor they start operating on patients. HAHA. its funny what people think we doctors do. Reminds me of this 9 gag photo: (not that its accurate…)

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Anyway lets get serious. I am going to give you a typical run down of what a HO in a surgical department does:

0600: Steps into the hospital wards, grab a computer and churning out the patient’s list. Now this list is like the most important piece of paper to the team, and as the HO, the most junior member of a team of doctors (consisting of consultant, registrar, Medical officer and the HO), our duty is to create a top end, errorless list. This list consists of the patient’s details: NAME, IC, SEX, Location (ward/bed) and a list of tests results – blood tests, scans; as well as the plans for the day. Each day starts with a new list and at the end of the day you can expect this list to be tattered and torn. Mind you, the time I state here is the average. 6am is the average time HOs in surgical departments step in the wards. I have heard stories of certain hospitals having their junior coming in about 5am. Crazy isnt it?

0645-0700: Consultant arrives, we start rounding patients one by one. We go to each patient, examine the patient and decided what to do today. Do we operate on the patient? Do we do more scans? Run more blood tests? Discharge the patient? Refer to Social Worker? Refer to other medical discplines? Refer to physiotherapist? Refer to occupational therapist? Speech therapist? As you can see we work in a multidisciplinary manner.

0730: Most hospitals have a teaching session at 0730 where the entire department comes together to discuss cases, learn stuff, be a better doctor.

0830: if rounds not finish, we go complete them. If not we head to the canteen downstairs for breakfast and discuss and consolidate the plans for the day.

0900: Surgeons go to Operating theatres of clinics. We HOs, stay in the wards and carry out the plans as discussed in the morning. Do the necessary referrals, do the necessary scans. If a patient collapses, the nurses calls us and we rush there to rescue the patient. Nurses will always call the HO as the first line of defence in the event of anything that you can imagine. Patient itchy? Call HO. Patient headache? Call HO. Patient fever? Call HO. We receive about 50 calls a day on an average day.

So as you can see our entire day will be spent on doing changes and following up on patients in the wards. Yes we do not step into clinics as a junior HO.

If the day’s workload is ok, we get a chance to go to the operating theatre to learn some stuff!

1600 – 1900: Any time from 4pm to 7pm, the consultants and registrars can call you to do an exit round. Meaning, we run through the patient’s list and make sure whats to be done is done. The time range here is huge. On certain days when the team is busy operating, the HO will need to stay till its time for exits. So we are really happy when we get to exit early because it will mean that we can go off earlier to rest!

1700: After 5pm, the on call team takes over. This means that our official time to knock off from work is 5pm but again is dependant on what time you exit and if there are any remaining changes. Nurses will start calling the on call HO after 5pm. One can expect to receive about 100 calls over one night.

There’s a typical day of a House Officer. The next time round I will share with you what a HO in the medical department does.

Till then, Happy Chinese New Year!

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