Whenever Dr Cynthia Chia, a Cardiothoracic Surgery (CTS) Senior Resident and Chief Resident, encounters a roadblock, she likes to get to the root of the problem. A strong believer in open communication with her peers, she has stepped up to assume an administrative role despite having to manage her clinician and teaching duties. Read more about Cynthia’s challenges, and how she feels self-awareness, people and resource management are fundamental to success.
1. As a doctor who has gone beyond clinical work to take on an administrative role, tell us about how you came into this role, and what you do.
I have taken on an administrative role mainly because I am a Chief Resident from the Singapore Chief Residency Programme (SCRP). My role involves planning the rosters for my registrars and providing feedback to the Faculty on the difficulties faced by the Residents and the areas we would like to improve on. We are fine-tuning the CTS Residency programme because it is still relatively new. Being part of the pioneer batch, we hope to make improvements for my juniors, taking into consideration the input from the Faculty as well as the residents. Because of this, we hope the programme has seen improvements each year.
2. What do you enjoy most about your role?
As clinicians, we are constantly frustrated with administrative protocols, and question why things have to be done in certain ways. Being a Chief Resident gives me the privilege to participate in many dialogues and exchange ideas with my seniors as well as other Chief Residents during the SCRP sessions and faculty meetings. Through these interactions, I have gotten a clearer perspective of the difficulties that everyone faces in their training, and why certain policies need to be in place. Now, I hope to learn to find a balance between administrative and clinical role to make the system better when I am given the opportunity to do so.
3. How do you balance your responsibilities between clinical and administrative work?
Fortunately, my department is small. My colleagues know the constraints and we are willing to work together to achieve our shared objectives. I am fortunate that my fellow Residents and Faculty are understanding. My colleague will cover for me when I need to attend courses or meetings and vice versa.
4. What difficulties did you face when you first started out? How did you overcome them?
Sometimes, I can be fixated on certain things or have the notion that everything must be fair. I realise that this may not always be realistic. Sometimes, we need to compromise, learn to make sacrifices for the common good, and see things from another persons' point of view. At the end of the day, there is only the best outcome and not the perfect outcome.
The SCRP has helped me gain a better understanding of myself over time, throwing light on why I make certain decisions. Learning how to interact with others was also a learning curve for me. I have learnt how to anticipate others' reactions, and how to avoid or handle certain conflicts. While this can be difficulty initially, it is achievable. I have personally seen many Senior Clinicians practicing this and it really amazes me. I am still learning how to do this at the moment.
5. Lastly, how would you describe your working experience with the administrators in SingHealth Residency?
The Programme Executives (PEs) in SingHealth are really helpful. Often, we are very busy with our clinical work and have time constrains. The PEs assist us by helping us to keep up-to-date with paper work. They are very patient and organised, and keep track of specific deadlines to remind us what needs to be completed.
Apart from PEs, I work closely with my Programme Director and Head of Department. On top of a heavy workload, the Senior Clinicians have the responsibility of caring for the whole programme and department. The sacrifices they make for their work while trying to mentor us is impressive. It is gratifying to know that you are not alone. Your seniors actually listen to you, and take your ideas and bring them to another level. When it comes to my turn, I hope to pay it forward to my juniors.
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