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Training in the New Normal

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has entered a state of ‘new normal’. Medical education has quickly adapted and evolved in response to the pandemic. How have our Residents and Postgraduate Year 1s (PGY1s) adjusted to these changes? We spoke with Dr Lee Tung Lin (Internal Medicine Resident) and Dr Jessica Leow (SingHealth PGY1) to find out.


  1. It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 hit our shores and caused significant changes to our lives and work. How has Residency/PGY1 training changed for you since then?

    Dr Lee:

    Before the pandemic, we would usually have face-to-face tutorials or practice sessions in preparation for our major examinations e.g., the Practical Assessment of Clinical Examination Skills (PACES). Nowadays, all physical sessions are conducted virtually due to safe distancing measures, and we are able to log in to get our bi-weekly dose of ‘medicine’ anywhere we are. Although Zoom sessions are convenient and time-efficient, we still miss the opportunity to have face-to-face practice sessions that offer us more hands-on learning and greater patient exposure.

    Dr Leow:

    I started my PGY1 training just when Singapore entered the circuit breaker period, and training was definitely different from what I had envisioned. We had to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for long hours while attending to patients, as well as attend lectures and practice sessions via Zoom. It’s definitely been challenging, but it’s good to look back and see how we persevered to successfully fulfil our duties.

  1. Tell us about your experience as you adjust to the new normal in your training and how did you cope with the challenges?

    Dr Lee:

    Beyond the technical teething problems that come with using Zoom, it was also tougher to seek clarification on certain skills and topics, as compared to face-to-face sessions. Fortunately, I had the help of extremely patient and supportive seniors. Despite their own busy schedules, they would set aside time to guide us on areas that we were not familiar with. Their friendly and approachable demeanour made it easy for me to reach out to them for help, and I am thankful for that.

    Dr Leow:

    Having just graduated from medical school and transitioning into a working adult with greater responsibilities was already a challenge on its own – now further compounded by caring for patients during the height of COVID-19. Due to the stricter safe management measures in place, we were not allowed to mingle with fellow House Officers (HOs), which could feel a bit lonely as we weren’t able to physically encourage each other as we embarked on this new chapter.

    Thankfully, we managed to keep each other’s spirits up through other means, such as Zoom calls and text messages. Having a great pool of friends and colleagues has really helped me to adjust better to the ‘new normal’, and their constant support is what’s gotten me through this challenging year and all the tough calls. Knowing that we could always turn to our seniors and bosses for help also made the road ahead seem less daunting.

  1. What advice would you give to your juniors who are experiencing similar challenges/struggles at the moment?

    Dr Lee

    Do not be afraid to ask for help! People whom you meet on your journey in Medicine are generally understanding and patient. Things might get tough, but always persevere and seek help when in doubt, for there will be light at the end of this dark tunnel.

    Dr Leow:

    1) Learn to embrace new challenges with an open heart. It may be a daunting journey ahead that’s filled with lots of uncertainties, but you will survive and come back stronger.

    2) Do not be afraid to ask for help as we are all in the same boat together.

    3) Most importantly, learn to treat yourself better. It could be as simple as treating yourself to a cup of bubble tea or a good meal whenever you are feeling stressed. It really helps!