Returning to Melaka after a minimum of 2½ years in Manipal brings forth a whole new experience. While in the preclinical years, exposure to patients is minimal, life in Melaka throws the student headfirst into the wards to deal with real patients. Not to mention the colourful personalities of the Melaka Manipal Medical College (henceforth MMMC) staff.
I remember vividly the first day of my posting.
We were literally screamed at upon arrival. His voice resonated throughout the wards. Patients looked up in disbelief, nurses looked at each other knowingly shaking their heads, we looked down in fear, afraid to make eye contact and ECG monitors of comatose patients flickered. Nearby, the new guard on duty rushed in with his baton drawn, ready to neutralise the aggressor only to realise his mistake. One by one we marched out of the ward looking battered from the verbal assault we have just been subjected to. Only a few of us remained. Fight, flight or fright reaction. Fight the professor by reading up and answering his questions, or flee. Flee here means being sent out. Of course we got the fright part every time we approached the wards.
Who did the shouting you may wonder. I won’t spoil the experience by telling. Ask around when you get here. Seniors will only be too willing to tell and share their experiences and perhaps throw in a tip or two which will be useless anyway. The good side of this experience is undoubtedly, what does not kill you makes you stronger. Somehow. If it doesn’t break you first.
On the bright side, not all postings are as traumatic. Some of them are actually enjoyable. There was one posting where the nurses actually invited us for tea. Those being the two extremes, the rest of it are pretty much routine.
Patients’ personalities can also be as colourful as the staff. Some patients will gladly invite you to examine them. Others will signal their displeasure by pretending to be asleep or refusing to answer your questions. It’s how we deal with the various personalities that makes clinical years a whole new ball game. You may find that while some of the top students in the preclinical phase excelled at studies, they may not be as proficient as the average Joe in creating rapport.
Let’s leave the wards and journey to life on campus. Yes, there is life on campus. In the evenings, students can be seen playing football in the small patch of grass which we call the field. Lecturers can sometimes be seen in an adjacent patch of grass playing their national game of cricket. In the main hall, students and lecturers challenge each other to a game of badminton. I guess this is the only time we get to beat our lecturers at something.
The one thing to be expected in MMMC is constant change. As a dynamic college geared towards maintaining the standards of the institution, change is inevitable. The recent completion of our very own sports complex is proof of this. It houses a state of the art gymnasium, an uncovered 4 feet swimming pool to prevent students from drowning and squash courts in trying to produce our own squash champion. I know of someone on the way to achieving that feat, playing even with blisters on her hands. Sadly, to use those facilities, we have to pay a nominal fee. But kudos to the management for giving all the students temporary free access to sample its facilities first hand.
With no autos to ferry students and lecturers around, getting your own vehicle is a must. So start being nice to mum and dad or risk staring boredom in the face on weekends. Alternatively, if you’re like me with no means of transport except your own two feet, try being real good friends with those who have. In the later part of the course, not having a vehicle means total dependence on your group mates to attend night postings. Start identifying those who have cars and treat them to a samosa or two. Better yet, treat them to Coffee Day, it’s definitely better than coming back here and treating them to Coffee Bean. Trust me; this is one investment worth making.
After all, you won’t need those Rupees where you’re going.
About the Author: Kevin OOI is an alumnus of Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal University. This article was first published in the college magazine.