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HO #LifeHacks: Tips To Become A Better House Officer 

House Officer (HO) year is a major milestone in your journey in Medicine, but entering a new work environment with countless things to learn can feel daunting. Gain useful tips from the SingHealth Residents' Committee to help you better prepare yourself for the HO journey! 


Tip #1: Reach Out For Help  

None of us are Superman (as much as we'd like to think so). It's okay to ask your fellow HOs or your seniors for help when you are swamped with work. Asking for help isn't a personal failing – it just helps us cope better with the workload as a team. Help each other out with changes, new admits or even in getting a snack/drink for someone who might not have been able to take a break.  

Tip #2: Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions  

Keeping quiet about things you don't know actually hinders your learning. If there are questions you have about patients, management or processes, be sure to ask your seniors –your Medical Officers (MOs), Registrars or Consultants. Remember that everyone starts off their medical career as a House Officer, and we only grow through asking and clarifying our doubts.

Tip #3: Connect Personally with Your Patients

Even though work can be extremely hectic at times, it's always helpful if you can find some time to get to know your patients. This way, you learn more about how they were managed previously, and it may even shed some light into underlying causes contributing to their condition. Hearing our patients' stories also allows us to understand and care for them better.   

Tip #4: Be Responsible for Your Work

Complete your changes to the best of your ability each day. If you have concerns regarding your patients and their conditions, highlight it to your seniors so that appropriate interventions can be taken. If you require the help of the on-call team to trace results or review patients, make sure you do a succinct yet informative handover. This is also part of working together as a bigger team, where we can help each other by taking charge of our own work.

Tip #5: Reflect and Ask for Feedback

Sometimes, it's tempting to keep chugging along and getting through HO year. But if you really want to grow as a HO, carve out time to reflect and ask yourself if you could have handled a particular situation better. Speak to your seniors and see if they can give you some feedback and advice to improve. While feedback is not always an easy thing to receive, it can present opportunities to help you improve.

Tip #6: Stay Hydrated and Nourished

You might be asking – how does this make me a better HO?? One thing is for sure – if you are persistently hungry and dehydrated, fatigue will get the better of you and prevent you from concentrating on work. Whenever you get the chance, please grab a bite (even a small one works wonders for the hangry HO) or a hot drink to keep yourself charged up!

Tip #7: Get Creative with Sleep 

The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated, although its supply is short in HO year. As a HO, the endless number of calls will unfortunately rob you of sleep and can cause you to burn out eventually. This means squeezing in time for sleep whenever you can – whether it's taking power naps during breaks/on call or getting a good rest at the end of each day (6 - 7 hours, if possible)!

Tip #8: Enjoy Your Days Off

For each four months posting, HOs are entitled to seven days of leave. Rest goes a long way during these trying times. If your department is able to approve your leave, make sure you maximise the time given. Do things that you enjoy, while catching up on sleep. During your leave, it's also important to compartmentalise and give yourself a mental break from work, so that you can come back refreshed and ready to care for your patients again! 

Tip #9: Pass It On

As you progress further in your HO year, you will eventually become more senior and your team will take in a new batch of HOs. Remember how your seniors guided your clueless HO self? Now's the time to pay it forward! Teaching others helps you revise things that you haven't practiced in a long time, and gives you the chance to learn and re-learn. 

Tip #10: Remember - It's a Journey

HO-ship is not a race, but a marathon. Naturally, all of us want to give our best 24/7, but it's important to acknowledge that we're human and we get tired too. Remembering the end goal of HO-ship – to grow as medical professionals – helps us pace ourselves. Over time, with the right morale, spirit and hard work, you will be able to look back and see how far you have come. Good luck and have a fruitful year ahead!