Monday, April 27, 2020

8 Ways to take care of our mental health during the COVID-19 Pandemic

          During this era of the COVID Pandemic, it would be easy to overlook our mental health which is essential in order for us to hurdle this unprecendented situation. In this video, I share to you ways on how to take good care of our mental health. Click the link here.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Reflections 101: Easter Sunday in Not-So-Ordinary Time

          This Easter Sunday will always be memorable to me.

           Not only because I spent it here in the hospital - I have spent many Easter Sundays at work, with colleagues who are also far from their families and loved ones. There may be a twist to this scenario today though. Some of my colleagues are unsure about when they would finally have the chance to go home to their families due to the prevailing community quarantine.

           Not only because we were served good and really delicious food today by the hospital kitchen. Food donations from anonymous donors also arrived just in time for lunch. In behalf of my colleagues, I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our full hearts (and stomachs). 

          Free and delicious food never fails to make hospital workers happy. That is one surefire tip I can give to anyone who is planning to impress someone from the medical profession. Free and delicious food ranks first, and a luxurious sleep after a satisfying body massage would come as a close second. In our present scenario, I believe, an adequate supply of face masks, face shields, PPEs or Personal Protective Equipment, and isopropyl alcohol would come as a surprising fastbreaking third on the list. 

          I guess it is pretty obvious why this Easter Sunday would be a memorable one not only for me but for all of us. This year’s Easter Sunday happened to fall on this  distasteful and unprecedented not-so-ordinary time. 

          Easter Sunday for me always ignited thoughts of celebration because it symbolizes the victory of Jesus Christ over death. When I was a child, I always looked forward to that one Sunday in a year when we would go Easter Egg hunting in the church grounds. Those were happy memories for me specially when I would finally find an egg. 

          Now that I am older, Easter Sunday took on a new meaning for me. The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith and it stands as proof that Jesus Christ is God. A God with a pervading presence that transcends the realms that is beyond this earth, and even beyond human understanding. 

          But how can we celebrate when we are beset with utmost grief and sadness? When our psyches are dominated with fears and worries? How can we celebrate when we ourselves are not our normal selves and are not allowed to be the social creatures that we are?

           It’s like wanting to scream for joy but you can’t be loud, you can’t even utter a word or even smile. It feels like your mouth is stuffed full with cloth until you choke. You can’t even stand and jump in exhilaration and throw your hands into the air out of glee because your entire body is tied to a chair or maybe, to a tree. Disgustingly excruciating.

          Inspite of this depressing circumstance that we are finding ourselves in today, I still wish that we will never cease hoping that deliverance from this trial is on its way.

          Today may be unrelentlessly marked by 50 deaths in our country due to COVID-19 (the Department of Health just released its update), but may we always remember that every Good Friday comes with an Easter Sunday. Just as the death of Christ was followed by His Resurrection, we will soon rise up from the ashes brought about by this dreaded disease which has claimed numerous lives, not only by bringing about death but by putting all our lives (and even the global economy) on a standstill.

          Just as no empty tomb held Jesus Christ for a long time, we shall not be held bondage for so long by the tombs created by our worries, our fears, our problems, and by any catastrophic event in our lives. We will all get through this, not only through concerted human efforts but most of all thru God’s will and power, and of course, thru His love. 

          I pray for strength, endurance, resiliency, and unwavering hope for all of us, and these I wish most of all to those who feel unimportant and forgotten through all this this chaos. Do remember, that we are all loved. The reason for this Easter celebration is both a resonating truth and living proof of that love. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

New Places to Visit When in Cebu

Places evolve. That is my realization during the long time I have stayed in Cebu City. I have considered this place my second home for almost two decades now and it took on a lot of changes right before my very eyes in that span of time.

When I was a child, we regularly visited Cebu since it is my father's home city and we would visit my grandparents who were living in the southern part of Cebu Province. Our trip would not be complete if we would not drop by the malls then. Gaisano Metro felt like heaven for me and my sister, specially when we spend all our time on the rides, and do a little shopping too.

Fast forward to many decades later, though malls of our younger days like Gaisano Metro still maintain a strong following, its close competitors are not far behind, namely the SM and Ayala Malls. Going for a Cebu trip may still include shopping in these famous malls but a lot of attractions are drawing a lot of crowds too.

If you are planning to visit the Queen City of the South one of these days or in the coming summertime, you might want to include these places in your itinerary.

1. 10,000 Roses

    These are artificial LED roses that light up from dusk till night. This is the very first of its kind in Cebu City, built about less than five years ago. The roses shine brightly during evening so visitors usually flock during the night. Make sure to set your cameras or phone camera to night mode when you take pictures.  It is about an hour away from the airport, since the roses are situated in Cordova, Cebu, so you may visit this first before proceeding to Cebu City. There is also a cafe nearby where you can while away the time and enjoy the beautiful ocean view and the view of Cebu City just a few miles across the place. By the way, there is an entrance fee that one has to pay in order to view the roses, but do not worry, the fee is very affordable. 

                     Photo by Shing Camps

                                        Photo by Shing Camps

2. Sirao Flower Farm

    Fondly named as the mini-Amsterdam of Cebu, the Sirao Flower Farm is situated in the mountainous barangay of this city. One would totally be in awe that these mountains nestle such a beauty or, shall I see beauties because of the countless flowers. The easiest way to get there (aside from hopping into your own car) would be by taking a habal-habal from JY Square Mall in Barangay Lahug. The habal-habal drivers would charge at least a hundred per head per way. Prepare yourself for a mountainous ride that may be bumpy along the way. Aside from that, upon reaching your destination, get ready to enjoy the breathtaking view of a lot of flower farms and the greenery of the mountains as well. Truly, a breath of fresh air away from the city. The farms again collect a meager entrance fee, which is actually nothing compared to the view that you will enjoy. 

3. Temple of Leah

     How would you feel when someone loves you so much that he or she built an extravagant structure to show the world his or her love for you?  Well, we may not be able to know how Leah would answer that question, but the Temple of Leah was built exactly for her  - Yes, Leah - by her husband. The temple was built last 2012 as a symbol of the endless love and devotion of Teodorico Adarna to his wife of 53 years, Leah Adarna.

         I had my picture taken at the lobby of the Temple, probably one of the most instagrammable spots in the area, right infront of the grand staircase that leads to a statue of a woman, sitting on her throne - an image inspired by Leah, of course.

              The Temple of Leah is a rising favorite as a pre-nuptial shoot venue.  But whatever purpose you will have for visiting the place, surely you would feel the love. It is suggested that the Temple of Leah be your side trip when going to the Sirao Flower Farm. People visit the flower farms first, which are more uphill in location, then stopover at the Temple on their way down and back to the city.


4. Simala Shrine
    Let's head down south, this time. When you feel wanting to have a moment with God and Mama Mary, this one is the place to be, The Simala Shrine.

          Nestled in the Hills of Lindogon in Sibonga, a town in the southern part of Cebu Province, this shrine is simply breathtaking for so many reasons namely, the scenery it offers, the intricate architecture and woodworks of the structures in the shrine, and most of all the evident serenity that surrounds the place especially that it provides a unique venue for one to be one with God.  To ask for blessings and guidance in your trips and endeavors, to ask for special favors, and most of all to give thanks for the many blessings you received and favors granted, you might want to pay a visit to the Simala Shrine.

          During my first visit to the shrine, what amazed me was the collection of crutches left behind by patients who used to move around with the aid of this ambulatory device. They donated their crutches after they have been healed and are able to walk again. There is also a collection of pens, pencils, graduation photos, and letters of thanks from students who successfully passed their licensure examinations after praying their petitions to the Blessed Virgin. 

               Photo by Shing Camps

5. Baywalk at the City of Naga

                             Photo by Shing Camps

        Lastly, take a walk at the baywalk at the City of Naga and enjoy the soothing breeze breathed out by the sea. You also get to enjoy views of cargo ships sporadically spread in the canvass created by the blue waters, or views of the planes that occasionally fly over the area. All day and all night long, there is no chosen time, whatever time you decide to visit the baywalk, I assure you it is always the best time.  The sea and the baywalk is beautiful both in daylight and at night. You can also treat yourself to the gastronomic delights offered by restaurants nearby. 

          That's about it. You may want to add these places to your Cebu visit itinerary soon.

          Enjoy and take care.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Silver Linings: Favorite Moments in Residency Training and Beyond


      An article I read in the New York Times somehow transported me to a warehouse of memories in my psyche.  

     As I looked around the "warehouse," I came upon a box which was in an almost forgotten corner. It was neatly covered with duck tape all over, and labeled "RESIDENCY TRAINING" with a red marker. I bend down to take the box, and for a few seconds, embrace it, like a long-lost lover.

      Doctors who underwent residency training for a chosen subspecialty know fully well that the period of residency is one hell of a rough roller coaster ride.

     I am one of the millions who can attest to that - being one and a half times a medical resident. Actually, I don't take full credit at all because every soul who underwent training can attest to that. Except maybe for an elite few who just got very lucky in this stage of their medical life.

     That New York Times article made me look back, and yes - scavenge inside that box - for good memories I had during residency training.

       One may ask, as quickly as a knee jerk, "Naa diay?!" (Are you sure, there are good memories?!). I will answer to that, "Naa ra man pud." (Somehow, there are good memories during residency training.) - with a smile to match. 

           I consider these moments as "silver linings," - an old idiom that gained popularity lately, thanks to Miss Universe 2018, our very own, Catriona M. Gray - that we hold on to amidst the sea of dark gray clouds or adversities and trials which are the currencies of residency training. 

    When one is subjected to such a stressful environment and lifestyle, I can truly say, the little things count - a lot.

     My family was a witness to my ordeals then. There was a time when I would air out my sentiments to my sister, and on the following day, when I, - drained from all the day's work - went home to our rented pad, she opened the door for me and shouted with extreme excitement,  "Tadaaaann...!!!" --- showing me that our mother had flew in unplanned just to comfort me and encourage me to go on, and to hold on. 

    There were times I would deliberately ask my mother - I remember sending her a text message in the middle of a sea of ECG tracings I had to finish reading - if I made the right decision of starting residency all over again, instead of trying out my luck in the Land of Milk and Honey. My mother would encourage me the way only a mother could.

     I remember, a fellow resident once asked me if I ever had the feeling of quitting every month. I answered her, "Yes I do have that feeling - everyday."

      However, not all days are bad, there were days when the sun shone so brightly into my soul that I felt I was in the right place and in the right time indeed.

      It is actually true when you hear doctors say, a simple thank you from a patient, creates magic in the life of a literally and emotionally-beaten physician, even though for just a few moments. 

      I had this one patient who was a little more extravagant in his thank-yous to the point that he promised to design my clinic once I graduate from residency training. He is an architect by profession. This same patient gave me a giant Toblerone chocolate from abroad - the biggest I have ever seen in my whole life - which he safely kept beside him while he was lying in his bed. 

      He was just transferred to the regular ward that time after a few days of being confined in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to a life-threatening heart attack. I was in my first year of training then (I only saw him at the Out-Patient Department and at the Emergency Room when he came in for attacks of asthma) so he was not under my service, but a nurse told me he was looking for me so I decided to pay him a visit at the ward before I go home.

      I don't know if it was just me but I saw his face brighten when I entered the room, and like a quick reflex he reached out for something on his side, inside his blanket, which made me think he was hiding something there.

     True enough, he was. He was actually reaching out for a big bar of that chocolate, which he handed to me with a big smile.  He told me that he safely kept the chocolate there since his family and visitors were eyeing on it. That act of thoughtfulness for me was indeed both adorable and touching. 

     In my second year as a medical resident, this fond memory somehow gives me a good feeling for honing and trusting my clinical eye. 

     There was this female diabetic patient who presented to the Emergency Room (ER) for body malaise. She has a background of erratic intake of medications and initial blood sugar tests taken at the ER revealed elevated blood sugar levels. I then insisted that she be admitted. Unfortunately, the patient was hesitant about admission. It is actually the rule (probably an unspoken rule and consensus among patients) to resist admission than to submit to it. I gave the patient enough time to decide, while waiting for the results of the other laboratory tests. Eventually, she gave in, and I, along with her family could not be more thankful that she agreed to be admitted. 

       Laboratory test results showed she was having a heart attack, and if she decided to go home, well it could be that she was ultimately going home to her final destination.

      What is special about this experience is that I became good friends with the patient's family after this important event in their life when they almost lost their mother. I haven't seen the patient for quite some time now, but her daughter updates me about her and I send my best regards to her as well. Last Christmas, I received another big package chocolate from the patient's daughter who is based outside the country - such remarkable thoughtfulness even when we are on the opposite sides of the globe.

      More than and beyond those chocolates, what is more important is the bond we have created, a bond that could last a lifetime. It feels good when we unexpectedly make good friends at work.

       In my last year as a medical resident, my favorite moment is when a brilliant neurologist simply told me, "Very good," when I told her what I did for the management of her patient. Those are just two words - two words that sound ordinary for many but those words were BIG and HEAVY for me, coming from an esteemed member of her specialty and coming from one of the rockstars in our field. She is not the strict type, this consultant, in fact she is very pleasant, but she is not also the type who frequently praises the residents if they or we have done good. I thought at least before I graduate, she appreciated my management, and it feels good to be appreciated and recognized for your efforts even in that simple manner.

      Now that I am a consultant, proudly serving the government, (which is an entirely different experience for me because I have been trained in and worked for a private hospital since I started) my favorite so far involves this stroke patient. 

        He is a teacher, particularly of the native tongue or dialect. It was just unfortunate that his stroke affected his speech that it became badly slurred, Rhat even us adults had a hard time comprehending it. How much more for his students? If that was not disheartening enough, half of his body was also paralyzed.

        I was worried and I felt for the patient - he had his family to feed.  The best I can do for him, aside from prescribing his medications and encouraging good compliance, was recommend an ample time of rest or leave from work, and also of course, hope for the best for him, that eventually he recovers from his stroke, so that he could get his life and career back on track.

      Forward to a few months after, I was again at the ICU, and there was this man who came in and asked about securing a medical certificate. I answered his query but I also threw back a question asking him about his diagnosis. He immediately reminded me that he was my patient, the language teacher who got a badly slurred speech after getting a stroke. His speech was perfect!

        I then asked him about his paralyzed limbs and he extended his arms briskly into the air to proudly show his limbs have regained their normal strength. It was symbolic for me when he did that - raise both his arms up high in the air - it was like a silent but meaningful act of reverence to The Guy up there. The ICU air was filled with sighs and gasps of happiness and exhilaration from the nurses and me when we finally recognized him. I will never forget that moment.

     I know that I am still a relatively young consultant. I am sure I will encounter more cases in the future, part of those will be memorable because they are pleasant ones, and others will be memorable because, uhhmm they may be filled with a lot of lessons both in life and in career practice. 

     It might be that my favorites now will be overtaken by new and better favorites in the near future.  

     I can only look forward to that, with God's grace and favor. All for the patients who find their way to me as they seek for care.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Crossroads in a Physician's Journey

Replying to one of the emails/comments from one of our readers, Jesselyn, in The Tipster: The Idiot's Guide to Residency.


Good afternoon po Doc. :) I recently passed the board exam (March 2018). And I still can't believe that I am already a licensed doctor. During med school I already had the idea of going to Internal Medicine with an interest in Nutrition and Allergies. But right now, I feel like a blank piece of paper. I don't know what to pursue for residency. It seems like I always doubt myself in pursuing such a busy, stressful and demanding training. I do admit being a sickly person (asthma, allergic rhinitis, menstrual problems, so on and so forth). My place is like a pharmacy bec. I have a lot of medications. Some of my seniors would even ask me why did I enter this field knowing my health condition is quite poor. Being a doctor wasn't really my first choice bec. I was thinking that my health might not be able to cope up with the stressful environment as a physician. But when my late grandfather told me that he wishes me to enter medicine, I took a chance. I made a promise to myself that for every year that I pass med school, I shall continue my craft to be a physician. And so I did. But in between those success in passing are the days and even weeks that I am not feeling well. I even had instances where my allergies flare up during exam days, and I had no choice but to take medications. Sometimes I find myself sleeping during exam. Our Dean would always tell me that I am incapable of being a good doctor and just quit. But for every time I get through these exams and hear the words "thank you" from my patients, it lights up my eagerness to be a doctor. I accidentally found your blog po Doc while I was scrolling down at Google search for what should I do in choosing residency training. I have read a few articles just now and I was really inspired. I hope to hear from you po Doc. God bless po :)
 I have posted it here so it can reach more readers.


Hello Jesselyn!

I am so sorry that it took me quite a long time to finally reply to your comment.

First of all, I would like to thank you for taking time to read my entries. It does not matter that you found this blog serendipitously because that is how most readers found their way here. LOL! What matters is that you have found a companion, a confidante, as you begin your journey as a physician. There is nothing better than touching a person's life and I believe that somehow in my own little way, I have touched your life, and that is more than enough to inspire me to go on nurturing this blog.

Second, allow me to congratulate you for passing the physician licensure boards. Congratulations, Jesselyn! You made it! It is undeniable, it is on paper, and the PRC can give proof that you are a licensed physician! This victory, this triumph, definitely cancels out all the discouragements you have encountered before earning your license. Do not waste time dwelling and fretting about what has been said to you then, those comments might have propelled you to where you are now and that's it, those comments have served their purpose, which is to challenge you so that you can prove them all wrong. So again, congratulations! Our journey as physicians is actually not without trials and frustrations (sorry to break your bubble with that) but those tribulations will only mold us to become better individuals and able physicians who can deliver quality care for our patients. You've surpassed all those hurdles in health, in the people around you, etc., it would not be impossible that you will overcome other trials in the future. Hard but not impossible. Besides, that is life, Jess. We will only stop encountering challenges once we join the flatliners. So congratulations again, and rejoice! Life throws lemons at you because you are alive and it knows you can make lemonade out of it.

I could still remember that very first morning after the night when I knew I passed the medicine boards. The sun emanated an unusually pleasant glow. The meal I ordered at McDonald's tasted differently in a good kind of way, and lastly, I could not hold my smile. That's how victory felt and maybe, tasted.

Now, as we enter this milestone, we are beset with a lot of choices, like multiple decks of cards laid and neatly arranged in front of you, each card almost silently screaming at you to take it.

Well, how do I help you with this. 

This may sound cliche or cheesy but in this aspect, it would make sense - I say follow your heart. If you decide to go into a particular specialty for training, be sure it is the specialty that you see yourself practicing in the future. You have to set your eyes on the doughnut and not the hole. The journey to the finish line will be very challenging, I tell you, ( I found myself crying almost everyday when I was in training) but just think of your goal and your purpose. Just remember that short-term pains will lead to long term gains. However, let me emphasize that as much as possible, avoid setting money or being rich as your primary motivation. Of course, as doctors, we are assured of at least a comfortable life, but it is different when your mindset is, you wanted and indeed you became a doctor because you wanted to be very rich. In my honest opinion, money as a motivation, will easily make you dwindle and wither specially with the harsh reality of this profession - the almost unattainable expectations from your patients, your colleagues, and the workplace in general. This mindset which is mainly centered on money will easily lead you to the thought that anyway, there are other ways to earn big bucks, and even bigger than practicing to be a doctor. In other words, commitment is the key here. A consultant once told me that just do what is right, just give everything your best, and money will follow.

I hope this helped, Jess. God bless you in your journey and who knows, by chance, we would meet somewhere sometime soon in one of our conferences. 

Mabuhay ka!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

What’s your excuse?

The woman in the picture, carrying her newborn child was referred to me for medical clearance for surgical procedure. In the middle of my interview with her, my attention was diverted to the man in the picture, who was sitting at the foot of the bed. He was in fact, her husband. 

I even looked closely (yes,like, literally) to check if I was seeing what I was seeing then. Both of his eyes were blind. His right eye had a dominant opaque lens and it exhibited a right-sided nystagmus. I asked as politely as I can and he told me he has been legally blind on both eyes since the age of six as a complication of measles.

In layman’s term, legally blind would mean he cannot even perceive light on both eyes. Pitch black.

I went on to ask him what he does for a living, and he said he makes cabinets and furniture. I was even amused how he is able to pull that off considering that he has to mark his measurements on wood and cut the wood too. He just smiled and said it may sound unbelievable but that is  what he does and his smile was beaming with pride when he told me that the products he builds and puts on display does not stay idle very long and are sold out after a few days. He also accepts other errands that would give him pay after a day’s work.

What struck me even more was the absence of even the slightest hint of bitterness in this man. He was smiling most of the time when we were talking, not because of embarassment, but simply because he had long accepted his reality and is at peace with it.

He even mentioned something to the effect that his mother probably forgot to have him vaccinated against measles when he was young. He ended that statement with a soft chuckle, giving me the impression that that does not matter a bit at at all. That is small stuff now.

He is at peace, even if he does not run out of trials, to add to his condition. His wife of 22 years just gave birth to their newborn baby boy, their 7th baby (7th heaven?) - adding to the six small mouths he already needs to feed - not including his wife’s and his. 

Amidst all that, he maintained a positive mindset, confident that they will surpass all these trials and that the Almighty will not forget them and forsake them. He was kind of worried though if ever they would need to stay longer in the hospital. A longer hospital stay would mean a loss of opportunity for him to earn for his family. Now that gives us more than a hint of the diligence, perseverance, and sense of responsibility that this man has. 

I may not exactly be super duper pious but I concluded our conversation by blessing him and wishing him well. Here is a man deprived of his sight since childhood but does not consider it as a hindrance to work hard for his family. His disability did not even succeed in crushing his hope for a better life for him and his family.

He may be blind, but his eyes which have long become strangers to light, are radiating with a lot of positivity of the almost blinding kind. 

He is an inspiration.

Now, what’s your excuse? What’s our excuse?

Note: Photo taken with permission. It shows in their smiles, doesn’t it? :D

Thursday, March 8, 2018

To go public, or not?

I was more than delighted to receive an email recently from one of my readers.  I am posting it here hoping to enlighten more doctors, specially the young ones who are finding themselves at a crossroad in their career path.


Good day po, doc.  I have read your blogs regarding residency and I just want to ask you questions lang sana if it's okay.  I just passed the board exam last march 2017. I've been moonlighting na ever since. I plan to go on residency by Jan2019. I'm planning sana to take IM. I wanted to try applying in private hospitals in Manila but medyo takot ako na baka di ko masustain ang mga needs ko with only limited salary. I cannot depend on my family naman. Kaya option ko n rin magpublic hospital para at least bigger ang pay. May I know what residency did you go into? And if private or public hospital ba pinili mo? I just want sana to at least have an idea. Thank you, doc! - Nicole


Hello Nicole!

Thank you for taking time to visit my blog and read my entries. At least, in my own little way, I can be of help specially to budding physicians like you.

I had my residency training in Internal Medicine in Cebu Velez General Hospital in Cebu City. It is actually the base or mother hospital of my alma later, Cebu Institute of Medicine. It is a private hospital, and I admit, the pay is a bit meager compared to that of public medical institutions, therefore I had to make a few adjustments particularly with regards to my expenses.

Actually, my pathway to residency, and to finally completing it, was quite unique in the sense that I went into residency twice.

The first time I went into residency, I was a total newbie, fresh from passing the boards, with barely any savings at all. 

The year was 2006. Still high after nailing the licensure exam and oozing with desire to be independent and to take a load off my parents’ back, I moved out of the apartment I rented when I was a medical student. I knew that my monthly salary of... (drumroll please).....
Php. 12,000.00,  would not be able to support my simple lifestyle (yes, simple, no kidding!) so I chose to avail of the free board and lodging offered by the hospital.

Free lodging meant we had our own rooms at the upper floor of the hospital, free water and electricity - not a bad offer at all, except that the upper floor above ours, was where the owners of the hospital live, and when we went down one level, it was already our workplace, our battle grounds - the wards. Still not bad. No transportation expenses at all in going to the workplace. Those were minor, almost negligible hurdles compared to the challenge called residency. 

Free board meant free food from the hospital dietary - still not bad because we would occasionally have lechon kawali, pork barbecue, freshly-squeezed kalamansi juice (yes, healthy!), and I am a fan of a number of the dishes they serve even if I have been their customer for half a decade. At least I could brag and say, there is such a thing as free lunch.

I finished the first year in residency but decided not to continue to the next level since I decided to try my luck with the USMLE. I spent four years working for my American Dream and during that span of time, I moonlighted in another private hospital in Tagbilaran City in the beautiful island of Bohol. 

It was during my moonlighting stint that I was able to get hold of a relatively large amount of money that I did not encounter in my life - not really in the million levels but pay was never better than I have known since I started my career then. I was able to afford stuff that I wanted, on top of my needs. It was also during that time when I brought for myself my very first investment, a life insurance from Sun Life. I am proud of that achievement and I consider that as one of my remembrance purchases during moonlighting - something that will outlast that gig of mine. When the time came that I had to go back to residency, I had to face the fact that adjustments had to be made once again.

Presently, I am an employee of the Philippine government, since I am affiliated with a DOH-retained hospital in Mindanao. I can say compensation is quite satisfactory.

For you, Nicole and for budding doctors like you, I have enumerated the following points, which I believe are major issues that need to be considered in choosing which hospital to train
-- private or government-owned. "To go public, or not?" -- that is the question that we all hope to answer.

1. Work load -- To establish a baseline idea,residency is like a vampire that only desires to suck out all the life and blood out of you. Do not get me wrong here. I favor residency training as long as your circumstances would allow.  I am not trying to scare you or discourage you from going into training but at least I want to give you an idea of what you will soon be getting into. In my own humble opinion, work load is a little bit - just a teeeeeeeeeeeny weeeeeeny bit - forgiving in the private hospitals. In the government hospitals, aside from your designated job description as resident, you might find yourself also doing a lot of scut work, like pushing wheelchairs, extracting blood specimens yourself, sending specimens to the laboratory, and other stuff like that. I even hear testimonies from fellow physicians that they go as far as buying stuff like IV catheters for their patients using money from their own pockets. Government hospitals, specially the referral centers, are always flooded with patients, it's like there is a party at the Emergency Room every single day. You have to prepare yourself for that reality in case you go for the government hospitals.

2. Compensation -- Dito naman bumabawi ang mga pampublikong ospital. A lot of doctors nowadays are finding themselves in government hospitals because of the very attractive compensation. The government gives 13th and 14th month pay, that's one month of your salary that is tax-free. There is what we also call Philhealth sharing among the hospital
employees, wherein we receive our share of the Philhealth earnings of the hospital. Sharing could be at least Php 5,000.00 every month, that is on top of your monthly salary, monthly laundry allowances, uniform allowances, hazard pay, and many others. I knew all about this when I started working for a government hospital. In this case, all your efforts and sleepless nights actually pay off as you find yourself laughing as you pay a visit to the ATM machine to check on your salary. In the private hospital where I trained we only had the 13th month pay
to look forward to, and a modest love gift from consultants, which both come in December, that's all.

3.  Conducive learning environment -- Now this would not depend on the hospital but this one last issue depends on you, the main player of the game. Just ask yourself, in which environment will you find yourself at the peak of your learning. In which environment would you feel more motivated to work and learn at the same time. Remember that residency is all about learning the ropes before we go into the real world. It is all about learning skills, developing good habits and clinical practices, and sharpening our clinical eye. Which environment will bring out the best in you?

To come up with a decision, consider each issue carefully and just be honest with what you feel about it. Remember, you are at the receiving end of the outcome of this major decision you are going to make. Be kind to yourself first, so that this kindness will radiate on to your patients, whether they find you in a private or a public hospital.

 I wish you all the best and I hope that somehow this has shed some light to your queries.


Keep the e-mails coming, dear readers.

Thank you.

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