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  • Writer's pictureVincent Chuah

Waiting for housemanship: Things to do

#this is a duplicate post from the blog Standing Alone

I believe many fresh graduates are pondering over how to make the most of their time while waiting for housemanship, which typically lasts for about a year. This waiting period can feel like a wasted opportunity if not utilized effectively.


Reflecting on my own experience, when I had to wait for housemanship, the duration was only four months. Unfortunately, I didn't fully capitalize on this "holiday" as there was a lack of guidance from seniors and limited online information.


Hence, I have decided to write this post specifically for those fresh graduate doctors who may find themselves in a similar situation. If you are unsure about what to do during this period, lack clear guidance, or question whether you are making the right choices, then please continue reading.


One of the biggest mistakes I made during my waiting period was becoming a data collection assistant for two months. Looking back, I realize that data collection alone does not provide a comprehensive understanding of how to conduct research. You are merely a human resource tasked with collecting data, resembling the work of a clerk or robot. Being involved in data collection alone does not make you one of the authors of a research paper. Many researchers hire individuals, such as medical students or other science field workers, specifically for data collection. Unfortunately, if you are solely involved in data collection, you are unlikely to learn much. However, if you engage in research formation, such as literature review, hypothesis formulation, and methodology development, it can greatly benefit your future endeavors. Most universities provide extensive lectures on the basics of conducting good research.


Another question arises: which field are you interested in? By determining your field of interest, you can get a head start on others. Many of my medical school friends aspired to become surgeons or physicians. However, towards the end of housemanship, they discovered that those fields were not their true passions. They found themselves more interested in primary care, the private sector, radiology, and other specialties. Working environments and scopes can easily change one's perspective and interests. Therefore, let's say you are interested in orthopedics but end up in primary care—these are completely different fields, and the research you conducted may not be applicable or helpful.


Here are some suggestions for your consideration:

  1. Approach medical officers or professors to guide you in writing a good case report. Mastering the art of writing a solid case report will lay a strong foundation for your future research endeavors. Seek their guidance and advice throughout the process.

  2. Before COVID-related concerns, I would have recommended traveling (once COVID issues are resolved). Traveling broadens your horizons and helps you gain a broader perspective. As a Chinese proverb goes, "It is better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books." We should explore the world while we still can. You will realize how challenging it is to get leave for traveling once you start your housemanship. Approved leaves are usually short and limited to 3-5 days. If finances permit, take your time and savor every moment while traveling. It's not about visiting numerous places but fully immersing yourself in each place you visit.

  3. During this waiting period, it is important not to overwork yourself. If you have financial constraints, you can consider getting a job to earn a living. However, if finances are not a major issue, I recommend using this time to spend with your family, pursue your hobbies, or engage in activities you enjoy. It's crucial to manage your time wisely and avoid procrastination. Remember, you will be working until the age of 50 or beyond, so there's no need to rush into the workforce. Personally, I regret not dedicating more time to traveling, saving my money to visit overseas countries, and not prioritizing my hobbies. Now, I find myself lacking the time to do all these things.

  4. In addition, it's beneficial to upgrade your computer skills, such as proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, video editing, and statistical software like SPSS. These skills will prove valuable in your future endeavors.

  5. Consider joining a Toastmasters club to enhance your public presentation skills. If there is a Toastmasters club available, I strongly suggest joining and embarking on your Toastmasters journey. It is an interesting and fruitful experience. Public speaking is not easy, but it is a skill you will undoubtedly need during case presentations, poster presentations, making referrals, and requesting scans.

These are merely suggestions, and you are free to choose whether to follow them or not.

I wish you all the best!

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