Long hours of ‘tagging’ must change with the times

  • Letters
  • Monday, 20 Mar 2017

HOUSEMANSHIP is just around the corner for me and 3,000 other medical graduates. I hope this will shed some light on what we are about to go through.

When housemen start their practice in hospitals, they will have to undergo a period called “tagging” whereby they will be attached to a senior houseman and will be trying to pick up basic procedures and documentation, where things are in the ward, and start seeing patients.

On average the day begins at 7am and ends at 10pm, but you’re expected to be there at 5am. To add to that you’re at the mercy of medical officers and specialists because sometimes you have to be there longer. Thus on average it is 15 hours a day.

We are expected to function at our best for two weeks, with just one day of rest in between.

And depending on the schedule of the specialist who will be supervising the housemen, they may have to do that for up to three weeks before they can be assessed and left to start their eight hour shifts independently.

This is not the time for the senior doctors to be saying “during my time ah, we work all day long ...” Clearly, this is not your time and it will never be as this is our time.

Times have changed. We are from an entirely different generation. We think differently and work differently. And you have to come to terms with that. If it takes so long to realize that, it’s just utter ignorance. Please, move on.

How is one to reflect on what he or she has learned or done in the ward for that day - with just four or five hours of sleep - before having to work all day again.

Sleep is needed for consolidation of memory and by that, I don’t mean a luxurious eight hours but a decent six. It will be impossible to meet even physiological needs within that period of two weeks.

To add to that, we will be assessed at the end of the period to see whether we can function independently in the ward.

Just how does that work when at the end of the day you’re going to work on eight hour shifts but you will be evaluated based on more than 14 hours a day for two weeks, not forgetting the fact that you will be treated like lesser beings during that period.

The question is, when we have a surplus, what’s the need for such long hours of tagging?

Is this how we treat the crème de la crème? If they could come up with merciful 10-12 hour sessions during the ‘tagging’

period, trust me there will be a lower failure rate at the end of the two weeks, not to

mention better functioning, thinking and rested housemen.

I believe I need not add the effects of long working hours, physical exertion and stress on the mental health of junior doctors. Most of us are well informed enough, with depression and suicidal tendencies both local and abroad.

At the end of the day, we are young adults of 25 years age or more. Most of us have never had working experience but our hearts are filled with passion to serve our patients, to do what we love and what we have traded much of our youth for while most of our peers have settled in life.

We chose this path out of love. Please don’t make us hate what we have set out to do. Job satisfaction is everything. I believe I speak for all of us, future contract doctors.



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