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The Beginning of a Medical Career

How is life as a doctor like after graduating from medical school? What is a typical work day like? What are the challenges faced? We hear from Dr Cher Yuqin (Paediatric Resident) on her joy and challenges as she lives her love of Medicine in SingHealth after graduating from medical school.


  1. How would you describe your typical workday?

As Residents in SingHealth, we often get the opportunity to rotate and be exposed to different subspecialty postings. So, depending on which posting we are currently doing, a typical workday usually differs. For example, as general paediatrics is more ward-based, we will usually start the day by doing rounds, attending to patients, followed by another combined round with the consultant, to decide on the eventual treatment plans for the patients – so as to name a few.

Throughout the day, we will also admit new patients, review referrals, and discuss as part of a subspecialty team on the preferred treatment plans for the referred patient. There are also non ward-based postings like the children’s emergency postings, where we work in shifts instead, handling overnight calls.

  1. What was the experience like when you first started work? Were you scared or nervous?

Definitely. The transition from a medical student listening in the lecture theatre to a full time working adult, with actual patient responsibilities can be quite challenging. But at the same time, it’s also very fulfilling to know that I can make an impact on someone else’s lives too. Knowing that my decision can affect and change my patients’ outcomes, I find myself thinking and weighing my decisions a lot more as a senior. But not to worry, as a Resident, there will always be someone whom you can turn to and ask for help. In fact, regardless of your seniority, there will always be someone, who’s even more senior than you are, to ask for help.

  1. How's the work culture – the interactions between colleagues and the general atmosphere in the workplace like?

I must say there is a very loving working culture and atmosphere within my department. Regardless of your level or rank, there is always someone to help you out. We are also attached to a Residency mentor whom we can always go to for help. I personally have a very close bunch of friends in SingHealth Residency, who makes going to work enjoyable every day too. There is also a robust and structured training system in SingHealth Residency, where we are guided along our learning journey with protected teaching and studying time.

  1. What were some of the challenges you faced in your Residency journey?

There are a lot of things in Medicine that we may not have an answer to at times. In our line of work, we tend to see our fair share of deaths, making those days more difficult than usual. No matter how hard we try, there are days where we will feel defeated and helpless, and we ought to learn from these experiences and ‘bounce back’ from it. We may not be able to save every life, but we can try our best.

  1. Share one patient experience that has left an impact on your career.

A recent experience with a young patient suffering from a terminal illness left a profound impact on me as I was deeply involved in care, seeing her through her first diagnosis till her last breath. On her final day, I was the one who accompanied her home to be terminally extubated, where her breathing support was removed at the comfort of her home. I witnessed how the parents went from denial to acceptance of their child’s illness and passing. Being with them through this entire journey was heart-breaking but meaningful at the same time, especially since we were able to grant them the opportunity to have their child pass on at home.


  1. How do you cope with such experiences?

It is okay to feel defeated and helpless, but most importantly, to find someone whom we can speak to and share about these feelings. We need to understand that we have tried our best, and to learn from the experience. This is a learning process and also the essence of how medicine has improved over the years as well.

Keeping mum about your thoughts and struggles will eventually take a toll on you. So, always remember that no matter what you do or what profession you are in, make sure you always have someone whom you can turn to instead of bottling these feelings inside.


  1. What qualities do you think are necessary in this medical profession?
  • Communication
    As doctors, we often deal with patients as well as their parents and caregivers. Oftentimes, the family members and caregivers are the most anxious even though they are not the patients themselves. Learning how to effectively communicate with the family members and our patients is the best way to help calm their emotions. As a paediatrician, I would say that the communication skillset that we bring to the table is also different. Unlike other specialties, our patients are often babies, young toddlers or adolescences who may not be well-versed in their verbal cues just yet. We have to learn and understand our young patients through the non-verbal clues demonstrated as we examine them. But that’s what’s unique about Paediatric and is something that I truly enjoy doing. 

  • Willingness to Learn
    As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, there is a need for us to constantly update our knowledge and skills in order to be able to provide the best care possible for our patients. Learning has and will never stop, and the willingness to learn is of utmost importance on this medical journey.

  • Humility
    Humility  is an important value that one should have as a doctor, especially since there's so much to learn from everyone who is involved in a young patient's care, be it from the young patient, the young patient's parents, allied health professionals to nurses. 


  1. In your opinion, what are some values a doctor should have?

    There is always this mind-set that doctors have the ability to help everyone. Although that is a good thought to have, I have come to realise that this may not be the case. In fact, having that thought might actually burn us out. There is this rule in Medicine – “Do no harm”, which I find to be the most important. We may not be able to help everybody, but we should have the willingness to help our patients to our best ability.


This interview transcript is contributed by the Singapore Youth Medical Forum and copyedited by SingHealth Education Communications. For more information on Dr Cher's experience as a Resident in SingHealth Paediatrics Residency Programme, visit Singapore Youth Medical Forum's Instagram (@symf) to watch the full interview.