Hospital Lessons (1)

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Image from this site:

This idea just floated into my mind one day. You see, I spent almost 11 years working in the Malaysian Ministry of Health and the first eight years were at a district hospital. During that time I learned quite a few life lessons and for some reason I just thought it would be a good idea to do a small series of these events.

Maybe it is a way to remind myself of the lessons I learned, maybe it is also a way to share those lessons to those who read it and though these lessons are things I truly believe we ALL know whether consciously or not, I’d like to go with the flow and do it anyway.

Entrance to the Accident and Emergency Department of the hospital I worked in for 8 years. Source of picture from
Entrance to the Accident and Emergency Department of the hospital I worked in for 8 years. Source of picture from

It was a balmy Indian afternoon and I remember sitting in our little living room in this little  house that I and two other friends were renting, talking to one of our seniors who had come down for a visit from Malaysia a year after graduation. He had just finished a year of internship in a hospital in Malaysia and was regaling us with the “horror” stories of what it meant to be an intern. However, amidst all those nightmare inducing stories, he dispensed one really good piece of advice : “Always be friendly and polite with the nurses. They rule the wards. If you ever get on their bad side, they can make your life a living hell! Also, they’ll teach you a lot, but you have to be humble enough to listen and learn.”

I made sure I remembered that. See, I’m generally not the type to fluff my feathers and walk around with a puffed up chest, sauntering about as if I know everything. It’s probably the childhood problem of inferiority complex that’s plagued me for most of my life. Ah, the silver lining to that is it helped me to be grounded enough to realise that I really don’t know everything and it’s always prudent to ask for help and to generally just be nice to people. (Not sure how this works as a silver lining to having an inferiority complex…but hey, that’s how I roll)

So, it wasn’t hard for me to humbly bow my head and be the lowly servant (intern) of the great goddesses called “Nurses” at the hospital . I just fell into that role quite…naturally.

You know what though…it was true. Not only did I learn so much more about the practical side of medical care from them, I also learned it from the hospital attendants. These were the people who supported the hospital staff carting patients to and from the different parts of the hospital, the ones who ran around carrying samples to the lab and getting results, or medical records…you know the stuff which makes a hospital run. There were those who had been working for years at the hospital, rich with wisdom that only experience can give us. It didn’t matter where they were on the scale of “importance” or where they fit into the hierarchy of the organisation, they all taught me valuable lessons and made me a better doctor.

The nurses and the attendants were the ones who taught me how to transfer patients

Hospital (Photo credit: José Goulão)

from the “patient gurneys” to the bed without dropping them, how to care for a bed ridden patient, how to set an IV line, how to deliver babies, that particular antiseptic which helps stop bleeding, the little tricks to help shorten the labour process, how to do a proper wound dressing…- what it means to actually take care of someone who is ill. It wasn’t the specialists, it wasn’t the senior medical officers – they gave me the knowledge but it was that other group which taught me more than that. And if I remember correctly, I am pretty sure that as a medical officer who had survived the great (and at times horrific) period of internship I spread the word around to the new interns – Be nice and learn from the nurses and the hospital attendants. They’ll be your greatest teachers!


That was my first lesson and it was a beautiful one. It taught me to never underestimate a person because of their “standing in life” or “their position”. It took the idea of being respectful to everyone up another level which is : When you are open to learn and when you come down from whichever high horse you’re sitting on at that moment, there is a wealth of information and wisdom that can be garnered from almost anyone…or any situation.

30 thoughts on “Hospital Lessons (1)

  1. Great post with important message. It is incredible what you can do and do it with such humility. You can deliver babies, talk about seeing magic in action…..
    I think sometimes fear can interfere with the proper respect and reverence for all people in all stations.

    ” hugs” Linda


  2. That’s a really good piece of advice for everyone. There’s a quote from the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin that says if you assume a fixed position in an argument/discussion, others who do not wish to argue will leave you undisturbed in the possession of your errors. We can learn from just about anything or anyone, if we keep an open mind. And listen instead of talk.


    1. I like that quote very much, Peter! It’s true too…if we are so fixed and blind ourselves to the possibility then…we really are the one who is at a loss.

      I sometimes don’t listen enough..I get impatient..I am learning to learn to listen though…and the thing I notice is that I am also learning to listen to my inner voice…which is harder to do…I am hopeful though! 😀


  3. This is a beautiful post and it is true hospitals are places where one can learn different valuable lessons of life.
    “Airports see more sincere kisses than wedding halls. The walls of hospitals have heard more prayers than the walls of churches!” ~ Manasa Rao



  4. I’ve always preferred to always be humble with everybody. It certainly makes you respected among everyone. Besides, we’re all human beings after all, brothers and sisters, descendants from one family. Though, knowing that doctors get to learn from the nurses is new to me, sounds cool actually. Thank you for sharing this, great post.


  5. What a wonderful post Shree and reflects positively on you and your parents. Yes, we tend to credit or blame parents don’t we.

    I’m sure you’re an excellent doctor and am happy for you and your patients.

    If I can share —

    Humility is a gift and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I remind my three adult children about humility every year when they all return home for the holidays. It has become a kind of a joke as over dinner, I would usually start with “You know children, no matter how successful you are, remember – ”

    My son would take over and complete my speech to the delight of his elder and younger sisters.

    Incidentally, my daughter (who switched from the corporate world) recently graduated from medical school in Brisbane. She came home today to spend the holidays with us. She returns to Australia in January for a one-year internship. I mentioned your post to her and she thoroughly agrees – that’s the same advice she received from her seniors.

    I would love to read more of your ‘doctor’ stories.



    1. Thanks so much, Eric. I love comments like these…so thank you for sharing your story!’re right..we do blame our parents and credit is given to them…that’s the way it goes 😉

      Congratulations to your daughter! I can’t believe she switched from one field to another but it just shows me that she truly has a passion for medicine which is always good. Far too many of us in the medical field…well from my experience …are in it from pure want and passion. I remember in college (Manipal) in a batch of 125 students, about half were of the money, the other quarter because of parents wanting a doctor in the family, some others had family in business and needed someone with a medical degree so they could open medical centres. The rest…they were the one who truly had a passion for being there.

      I, unfortunately was one of those who were there because I went with the flow, and the flow dictated that the eldest in from a Ceylonese family should really become a doctor 😉

      However…you know…I don’t regret it. Because all of my experiences has brought me here..detours or not…I’m still here as I am because of my past experiences…and that’s fine by me 🙂


    1. Thank you, Andra. Like I mentioned to Diane…sometimes I *do* get stubborn…but most times, yes it’s always nice to have inspiration kinda hit you from an unexpected source!


  6. What a great post! Your patients are lucky to have someone like you – so many doctors seem to find it difficult to even consider the opinions of their “peers”, let alone their “inferiors”. It’s so nice to know that there are still people like you who find value in the wisdom of others regardless of their position in the hierarchy.


    1. Thank you, Diane! I wouldn’t know if my patients were *that* lucky…specially when I’m in my grump mode..hehehe.

      Yes, I would have to agree that I am blessed to have that characteristic in me…to be open enough and not care at all where a bright idea comes from…though I will be honest and say that sometimes I get a little scared…when someone says something or proposes a suggestion…and my bull horns come out a little..being stubborn and all…generally though I’m more a cow than a bull…kinda laid back..ahahaha


  7. ‘Go with the flow’ Shree, is my personal mantra for the last few years. Things happen and suddenly you find you’re ok, you learned lessons and are all the better for learning them. I would be honoured should I find myself under your care as a patient. I shall catch up with your previous thoughts in the new year ( sounds a long way off but it’s not is it? 2014? I wonder what’s in store) Hugs aplenty my lovely talented and caring friend. xPenx


    1. Pen!’s so nice to see your words grace this blog again 🙂

      That’s a good mantra…to go with the flow because you are right…we usually realise the strength within us when we come out okay at the other end…sometimes a little scarred , sometimes weary…but we make it out.

      You made me grin saying you would be honoured to be a patient of mine…pssst…I can be a bit of a grump 😛 Just saying…

      Take your time catching up next year, Pen…enjoy all your blog friend’s posts…we shall wait patiently just glad that you’re back 😀


  8. Shree, Loved this first lesson, spoken with such humility, 🙂 ..Loved the ” not the type to fluff my feathers and walk around with a puffed up chest, sauntering about as if I know everything.”.. So many of today’s professionals do,, and you are right, it gets right up the noses of those who probably know more than them practically LOL in any profession .. :-D..
    I used to work with a lady who had been a Sister on a very busy A&E Ward, who left her profession to become a Team Leader in Support Work.. Her compassion and empathy for others never failed to amaze me and no matter how busy she was she always had time for everyone..
    I envision you a little like that Shree.. as you look deeper and reach out going that extra mile…

    I never forgot my roots as I grew and took my own steps up my manufacturing Ladder as I became head of training.. I kept abreast of all new machines and it was my job to put new styles in on lines of production, I would sit and source a garment for best methods of construction putting out a pilot garment I myself had made from scratch working with mechanics who would make attachments to machines to make production easier etc.. I would then never ask anyone to do what I couldn’t do myself.. and as I was also Time and Motion.. using Garment Study Data, I would never ask anyone to do ‘piece work’ if I couldn’t achieve it and maintain it within a certain time frame… So I got lots of respect and co-operation from the girls on the factory floor, as they knew I was always fair…

    The work situations are I know entirely different.. But Respecting anothers knowledge and making them feel equal and not inferior, brings about that mutual respect where All work together better.. and thus creates a better working environment…

    Great Lesson.. Shree, and one we should all learn from..
    Love Sue xox


    1. Thank you, Sue…for always taking the time and posting such thoughtful comments AND to also share your own experiences..which is just totally awesome!

      Sigh…I wish I was full of compassion and empathy Sue…well..I am some times…most times though..ahem..I can be a grumpy bear ..hehe
      I am learning though..and that’s good!

      Respecting another is so important! and I completely agree with you on that!


      1. Don’t Sign Shree, at the end of the day we are all of us Human with human emotions and we all have our good and bad days, I am no different.. I can often grit my teeth.. Life as a support worker recently has been very difficult recently for all of our team, We work one on one, but is lone working.. supporting 24/7 … This saw me being drained mentally too. an 8 hour shift One on One with some one with very challenging behaviour I can tell you I wished I was somewhere else but with gritted smile got through it and thankfully they are now seeing Light at the end of their tunnel as the professional teams have sorted out meds..
        We each learn every day… and often through those we never really think came to teach us anything…
        I often step back now in any situations and ask myself ” What is this teaching me!? Once I get it.. Often then things will smooth out again.. as I smile to myself…

        Life is always a journey of lessons, the ones that keep being repeated mean we still need to learn from them and once we do they stop coming our way 😉


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