You are about to complete medical school and now you find yourself wondering: Where should I do my Residency training? In Singapore or overseas?
Our SingHealth Residents - Dr Ada Ng, Obstetrics & Gynaecology Resident and King's College Alumna, and Dr Hong Rilong, Internal Medicine Resident and Monash University Alumnus, share their experiences in choosing their Sponsoring Institution (SI) and specialties, and offer a unique perspective on returning home for Residency.
1.You are now in year 6 and Year 2 respectively. Use three words to sum up how life has been thus far in SingHealth Residency.
2. Share three tips with our medical students on choosing their future Sponsoring Institution (SI) and specialty?
3. Transitions are hardly easy – relocating back home after being in a foreign country and system for years must have been difficult. What were your considerations in returning to Singapore for your Residency training?Dr Ng: Personally, there were several considerations:
Dr Hong: For me, the decision to return was part of a bigger question – "What do I want out of life?" This made me ask myself the next question, "Apart from pursuing Medicine, what are my other priorities and purposes in life?"
Personally, family was an important consideration. The distance from home invariably meant missing out on important milestones and being present in the day-to-day lives of my loved ones.
I have also always been passionate about serving our people. Despite training overseas, I returned to Singapore every summer holiday to do student attachments at SGH. During my stints, I enjoyed forming deep connections with my patients. Moreover, I realised I could value-add to our local healthcare system with the experience I had gained from studying overseas.
Finally, I've always enjoyed practicing Medicine - it is more than a job, it is my hobby. The caseload in Singapore is higher, and being a smaller country, most of our government hospitals provide some form of tertiary care. This would offer rich learning opportunities for me to hone my clinical skills and delve deeper into sub-specialty work.
With these goals and passions being best achieved in Singapore, my choice is clear.
4. What was the hardest part about deciding to return to Singapore for Residency training after graduating from medical school? Dr Ng: It was hard for me to decide to leave London after I graduated from medical school. Returning to Singapore would mean having to start from scratch in terms of learning the nuances of the Singapore healthcare system, and enduring the uncertainty of whether I would be able to get into the specialty that I hoped to join.
Dr Hong: It was difficult to give up the perks of working in Melbourne; shorter working hours, a more competitive salary and supportive working environment. Beyond these things, it was hard to leave the familiarity of the system, the people, and more importantly, the philosophy of practice.
5. What were the biggest struggles that you faced when transitioning into Residency training in Singapore? Dr Ng: The acronyms and antibiotics names in Singapore and SingHealth felt like a completely foreign language to me. Thankfully, I had patient ward nurses and fellow House Officers (HOs) to teach me the lingo, and guide me through the protocols and ordering sets.
In my first week of work, I had to call various specialties for blue letters and I encountered three registrars, who told me off for being unfamiliar with the processes. One of them even hung up on me, which left me feeling demoralised and in tears. But it was through these experiences that I learnt how to improve the quality of my blue letter referrals.
Today, as a senior Resident, I still get snappy and irritated replies over the phone, but my advice is learn to be a 'tough cookie' and take it all with a pinch of salt. This way, you will be able to push on through the transition period. Dr Hong: I had to deal with the differences in healthcare systems and therapeutic guidelines, as well as being unfamiliar with the IT systems between Singapore and Australia. Thankfully, this transition was not too jarring for me, as I had already gained some understanding of the local system during my summer student attachments.
Hence, I would encourage overseas graduates and students to consider applying for attachments prior to coming back to Singapore. This would help you greatly for your transition back home!
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