Words of advice for new doctors

In his blog post, Congratulations, Class of 2012, Vagus has some excellent advice for new doctors which we reproduce here:

– Don’t lose yourselves. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important in life. We have all had the priviledge of sharing a dying patient’s last moments on this Earth: No one has ever said they wished they spent less time with their family. No one has ever told me they wished they made more money, or spent more time at work
– Stay true to your principles, whatever they might be. Whether it is “First do no harm”, or “The needs of the patient comes first”. And no matter what, stand firm by those principles. Even though you may sometimes encounter a patient who attempts to threaten or bribe you to do something that goes against what your beliefs are
– There will always be patients who will frustrate you. Or deceive you. Or talk or cry too much. While you might not have the answers for their ailments, they are still people. And everyone deserves at least respect
– Yes, out in the real world, you finally get to make real money. You finally start to pay off your loans, or are able to afford a mortgage, or to save. But never let that guide your actions. You are a doctor, and you priority is the health and wellbeing of your patient. Not how many tests you can put him through, or how many patients you can see in a day
– It’s OK to not have the answer. The 3-7 years of post medschool training might have taught you much, but it’s not going to teach you everything about the human body. It’s humbling to admit, but doctors really don’t have all the answers.
– It’s also OK to be afraid. The first time you treat a serious problem with no real supervision. To realize, “I’m it?? I don’t have to staff this with my consultant? I AM the consultant?”
– The learning never stops. I hate to admit this, but after 2 years of college and 5 years of medical school, and 3 years of residency and 3 years of fellowship, the learning ain’t done. Medicine is dynamic, so should you. But don’t fall into the trap of feeling the need to read every journal. Find a few that is relevant to your field, and peruse it periodically. Thrash the rest
– We are in the business of saving lives. Unfortunately, there will be some patients you will lose. Some, perhaps even because a decision you have made as his doctor. But remember, you are not God. You cannot win all battles. And there is a huge difference between losing someone because of the wrong decision, versus losing someone because of neglect or malpractice.


Malaysian physician, haematologist, blogger, web and tech enthusiast