Surgical Rotation

“Lalalallaala. Now that I have lost everything to you. You said you wanna start something new. Though it’s breaking my heart that you’re leaving. Baby, I’m grieving…”

The song went on and on in my confused head. I tried to shut it out but my head  resumed its persistence with the playing of the song. It was like my mind was trying to tell me that the ‘Wild World’ song by Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) is somehow important and relevant to my life as a busy medical student. It was like my mind was trying to jolt me into doing something important with the song. I shook my head in exasperation, wanting to shut the whole melody out. But damn, how my head wouldn’t give up. Cat Stevens’s voice was now was getting louder and louder and louder in my head….

Right. It was the alarm from my handset!

I didn’t want to wake up.

But alas, my day in the hospital starts at seven doing ward rounds!

That means, I have to wait for the bus at 6.30. That means, I have to wake up at 5.30 so that I would have JUST ENOUGH time (it’s only one hour) to pray, shower, iron my clothes and put them on, and make my breakfast as well as make the ‘bekal’ for lunch (I am saving my money, remember? And bringing my lunch is part of that plan) and hopefully get some pre-reading done while waiting for the bus.

I have become the master of rapid movement! Hyperkinesia! I have forgotten how to eat my breakfast at the table….I ate my toast, STANDING at the kitchen countertop, as I was making another toast to be brought for lunch. I took half a glass of orange juice (because a steaming cup of coffee would TAKE TIME to consume) in one single swallow. By the time I finished washing up my dishes (I just can’t leave my dishes unwashed no matter how much in a hurry I am) I would take a look at my watch, then freak out, then quickly grab my bag and storm out of the house!

I am tired and exhausted.

I have officially diagnosed myself with chronic fatigue syndrome basing on the fact that I could sleep practically anytime I am in between activities. I have also included Generalized Anxiety Disorder as another disease I am currently struggling with, relying on the symptom of heart palpitations that I would always get just thinking about surgeons and their questions!

Surgical rotation, I declare, has ruined me!

I have, thereby, made a vow that I would never be a surgeon! I could not imagine having to rush ALL MY LIFE! How about taking the time to breathe and enjoy the sunshine? How about taking the time to appreciate the view as you are journeying from your home to the hospital, instead of burying your head inside a thick surgical book? How about just having the pleasure of lying in bed with a good book that are non-medical???

I am not complaining (am I?). I thrive under pressure. If there’s no pressure, I just won’t perform. I like surgical rotation as a rotation…meaning I like surgical rotation knowing that it would end in another seven weeks. But I just could not imagine doing it for the rest of my life. I am, at heart, a relaxed person. I don’t like Type A personalities and would avoid them at all cost.

There’s a good side to surgical rotation…I have lost 3 kilos. Without even trying!!


Kak Mel: Siapa surgeon Afiza sebagai supervisor?

Me: Entah. Tak check lagi.

Kak Mel: Ada tak sesiapa batch korang yang dapat Dr. Chen?

Me: Tak tahu. Kenapa dengan dia?

Kak Mel: Oh..dia tu, erm, high expectation sikit.

Me: Oh, garang ek? (you would notice that Kak Mel uses euphemism and understatement while I use exaggeration in my description)

Kak Mel: Erm, dia expect orang tahu stuff. Expectation dia tu appropriate for your level, tapi tu lah, mesti ada juga yang kita tak tahu kan?

Me: Dia garang ek? (you would notice I would not give up the question and I want my answers in the same way I phrased the question)

Kak Mel: Dia ada high-expectation. (aghhh! Maksudnya dia garang lah tu)

Me: I hope I won’t get him.

And I got him!


Being a 4th year student is hugely different from the previous three years. I am always at the hospital. Uni is only a place to go to the library during weekends.

And I have to arrange my own schedule. It’s like working already…except we don’t get any salary and not as responsible for the patients. I have to go to clinics and call them beforehand and arrange my own appointments to see the supervisor. I have to make sure all those clinics and attachments don’t clash with my lectures. I have to go to doctors meeting and multi-disciplinary meetings (hoping nobody would fire questions at me and if someone does, I would be able to get the answer at least half -right). There’s trauma meetings to show up to. I have to follow-up on my supervisor’s patients. I also have to find the time to practice my long case and short case.

There’s no longer a fixed schedule. Everything has to be arranged by yourself. And you have to compete with others in completing your logbook.  There are at least 5 surgical operations that I have to attend within 8 weeks…but I can’t just decide to go to any of them without telling the colleagues in my team because they too need to complete their logbook. So we have to compromise. If one person has scrubbed in for one operation, then she has to let another person scrub in for the next operation. You can’t monopolize every opportunity that arrives because everybody else in your team also would need to complete their logbook.

So, do you see the difficulties here?

When previously my pace in studying and clinical experience is dictated by me, now I have to depend on the supervisor’s schedule and my team’s schedule. There’s a lot of compromise and putting-up with other people’s tardiness and lack-of-organization.

And just to arrange for these meetings and just to arrange for compromise…takes time and a lot of agonizing and heartaches.

And don’t even get me started on events that keep on changing and schedules that keep on being postponed. Last week, I went to the hospital to attend a 7a.m meeting (meaning having to wake up at 5.30) only to found out it was to be held on another day.

It boggles the mind how one can perform without any semblance of routine but apparently that’s what would happen once I go out there as a doctor. You just have to find the time to accommodate the many people that work with you or under you or above you in their working positions. Alas, as a medical student, I am the least important in the team. So it is MY schedule that have to change to accommodate the interns, the registrars and the specialists. It doesn’t matter that I have spent hours of planning my schedule for that day, it would miraculously change anyway.

And there’s nothing I can say, let alone do, about it.

Changeability is a routine nowadays and I guess, I just have to learn to like it.


I am now quite finished with whining.


PS: The author actually enjoys surgical rotation. She completely understands that it’s the tight schedule that makes the surgical rotation what it is supposed to be. She knows that surgical rotation would not be a surgical rotation if it has as loose a schedule as the psychiatry rotation. It’s only that she likes to whine because she feels better afterwards. The author understands that bottling up your feelings is not good for the mental. So she uses her blog to gain some empathy and sympathy. Has she succeeded?   

6 thoughts on “Surgical Rotation

  1. Nia Azalea

    kak ngah!! toasted bread is not considered as lunch. dude, what have u become???? hehe…
    aku tetiap ari bawak nasi tau dak?
    not just nasi…tapi siap dgn lauk ayam bagai!
    sambal tumis la apa la…
    mmg berbau satu ofis…
    agaknya sbb tu la berat badan aku dah naik…
    i have to try toasted bread for lunch!
    how many do i need though?
    and most importantly…how long will it last in ure tummy.. ..before u start to feel like im-damn-hungry-i-think-i-could-eat-a-horse!


  2. afizaazmee

    Kak Long, by our household standard, toast is also not considered a breakfast…more like a snack!! hahhaha.

    WhenI was home (malaysia) aku makan nasi lemak, nasi goreng, nasi kandar and macam2 lagi for breakfast….

    Badan aku terkejut sebab tiba2 aku makan toast ja (sekeping pula tu!!!) Ha…itulah rahsia diet aku!!

    If u wanna try toasted bread for lunch…u need two! Put buter and nuttella in between them. And eat them sloowwwly….because u need to check the time to convince yourself that it is actually a heavy lunch. Hahahaha.

    It lasts in ur tummy in 1 hour and a half (the time it takes for me to go hungry again) tapi if u eat them with mocha (or any sort of milky drinks) it helps u feel fuller…

    That ends the tip of the day for a crash diet…


  3. Nizam

    try ironing your shirts for the whole week during the weekends. so, ko boleh bgn 545 haha. but seriously, arranging timetables for ourselves? ape gune macek2 yg dibayar gaji membuat jadual tu? emo pulak aku tibe2. anyways, all the best! see you at the bus stop :p


  4. afizaazmee

    Aku nak iron for the whole week pun rasa cam fatigue! hahaha. (in other words, malas sebenarnya).

    But today aku bangun kul 2…sebab aku dah tido selepas maghrib….baca anatomy!!! Aaghhhh!!!


  5. afizaazmee

    yeah…cereal is quicker. But then cereal is more expenxive and you have to buy milk to go with it….even more expensive. I am on a reaaallly tight budget.


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