Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Should I buy one?

I wanna a small laptop coz its cheap and light (1.2kg). Then I can go online at Starbucks without bringing my spineless tanker of a laptop. Or go hospital watch drama will on midnight shift.This laptop looks  aesthetically pleasing too and only priced at RM1699..hmm any suggestions?

Oh by the way, its the Dell Mini 10.


I’m thinking of getting the pink one…no, not that I’m girly or what, but I think I should treat a laptop as a girlfriend (so that I will be more careful taking care of it) rather than an extension of myself. Since girls loved to dress in shades of light blue, purple or pink, I should dress my laptop in pink (since its the only available colour).


Lalala any suggestion on that?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Only in Malaysia


I (L) Malaysia, but does Malaysia (L) me?

It somehow seems inappropriate to criticise an entity that will pay for your livelihood for the next few years. Hence perhaps it is better to view the idiosyncrasies encountered in a positive light.

To apply for a pharmacy job in Malaysia is like a test for your adeptness to Malaysian way of life, especially for those studying abroad. Those who think a government who constantly cries for its sons and daughters in far away land to ‘come back to mommy!’ will glorified those who did heed the call with pomp and pageantry is in for a shock. Janganlah jadi anak Malaysia mudah lupa seems to be the general tone of things.


The “Come back to happy Mommy!” illusion.

First, lets start off with some hearty congratulations. Kudos to the government who deserved praise for having such a foresight to set such a good introductory course for aspiring pharmacists so that they will view further red tape and befuddled information as part and parcel of Malaysian life.  

Yes, so you have graduated overseas in a good University. And being a patriotic student with all the semangat and intention to enhance the wellbeing of the general rakyat, you decided to do what others choose not to do: you are going home!


Here comes the first step. how to apply for a pharmacy job? Well there seems to be no written instructions online. Alas zaman IT still is in its infancy in Malaysia. But never mind, someone back home say people now apply through the SPA website. So you go to the website. And lo and behold there seems to be more than one way to apply. And it was assured that all the ways are equivalent. It was only later from friend of friend that I knew calling up SPA was the way to go.

In the SPA website, it was written there that while you are waiting for their reply, fill a form with the Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) and Pharmacy Board of Malaysia (LFM). So off I go to the LFM website. The form was there! Hurray! But hold on! here it stated that to only fill in the form when you got the appointment letter from SPA. So who’s correct?? Lets go to KKM website to check. But the KKM form seems not to be online. But there’s an enquiry section! Where I had sent an email into oblivion.

Finally two months later, we all JPA pharmacy kids managed to figure the correct procedure out. At last we finally got out of the amazing maze!


My happy face after negotiating the maze.

And so off we go went for an interview. The questions ranged from “how we choose the Agong?” to “do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend”. It all depends on the interviewers, but from what I heard, nobody doing pharmacy is going to fail the interview (because we have a shortage of pharmacist!). I asked them, “so when will I get a job?”. A few weeks, they said. You know, government got a lot of red tapes. At least they were straightforward. We need to discuss it in a few meetings and liaise between three departments.

After three months of idling around, the letter finally came. Yes congrats, you got Sarawak. Now Sarawak got three hospitals that they can send you to. Kuching, Sibu and Miri. And no, you can’t know which hospital you are going to be sent, no matter if you call them or go visit them personally at KKM.  When you go and lapor diri on the first day of work at the KKM head office in Kuching, then you will know (even though they look like they do know). What about if I’m from, lets say Sibu? Oh, fly down to Kuching and lapor diri first. If you get Sibu, fly back. If you get Kuching, fly back to Sibu, collect your belongings and fly back to Kuching and start work. Come on lah, Malaysia must help its own industry. Now the aviation industry in the doldrums, go support them!


Fly Malaysian Airlines. Frequently.

But then, before you get angry and frustrated about Malaysia, remember that all this is actually a well-conceived personality test. It tests your patience and ability in problem solving. Teaches you the value of keeping in touch with friends too. We here only accept the best people! It aren’t supposed to be easy, as at the finishing line of this 110m hurdles  lies a well-paying, secured and glamorous job (hopefully).


To all my juniors in VCP, since I love you all so much, here’s really how to apply for a pharmacy job in Malaysia (for overseas grad).

1. Call up the SPA directly to arrange for an interview ASAP. The  telephone number is available on the SPA website. Currently this is only applicable to pharmacy, medic and dentistry students studying overseas. Don’t apply online, they take ages to reply (if they reply at all).

2. After you passed the interview (seems its just a formality), they will send you an offer letter within two weeks. Send back the attached acceptance form immediately. Once you get the offer letter, you can apply for a provisional registered pharmacist licence from the Pharmacy Board of Malaysia, which is available from their website. In the meantime, also go to Kementerian Kesihatan office to fill in a “Borang Maklumat Diri”.

3. Once you are registered with the pharmacy board (you can call them up to rush them), your info will be sent to the Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia, who will then place you in a State (also can call to rush them). They will then send you a letter to tell you when and where to report yourself to.

Sounds simple, but trust me, it is only so after you had gone through the whole rigmarole. Good luck in your on-coming exams!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Updates updates

We waited by the window, a yellow card in hand, looking intently and waiting patiently as the longer hand of the clock reluctantly arched its way into the big bold line on the uppermost of the circle. '”Okay, its five already!” The man on the front of the line exclaimed, and excitedly punched his card through. One by one, we watched as the machine efficiently rolled our yellow cards into its stomach before spilling it out again with the time we clocked out printed neatly on it. In black ink. One minute early, it will be red.


The definitive picture of a government servant.

I had now reverted back into the normal 8-5 work life routine. For this week and the next, I am located in the Radiotherapy Unit Pharmacy (RTU). It is a satellite pharmacy catering for four wards: Palliative Care, Ambulatory, Male RTU and Female RTU; as well as an outpatient chemo day care centre and clinic.

It was a pretty relaxing station compared to the market that is outpatient pharmacy. There is nothing much to do, besides filling medications and checking that the filled medicines are correct. I have all the time in the world to recheck everything before dispensing or taking the drugs to the chemo room as there are no impatient patients at all. Besides a wrong drug or dose will have severe consequences here.

Hence for the past few days,I had been dealing with a lot of expensive and dangerous drugs, Since it was so specialised, it had provided me a good chance to refresh my memory on all things about cancer. It was indeed fascinating to see the regimens and drugs we had learnt in practice.

Something different about pre-registration here compared to Australia is that we can do the final checking and dispensing of the drug. In fact I spent the whole of yesterday morning checking and dispensing drugs by myself as the only RTU pharmacist went off somewhere to work. It felt like being a real pharmacist-in-charge.

Anyway, am glad that it will be Friday tomorrow. Will be going for a Continuous Medical Education (CME) talk from 7.45am-8.45am before starting work at 8.45am. Will also have a long lunch break from 11.45am to 2.15pm tomorrow, and a 30 minutes morning tea in between 8.45am – 11.45am. So essentially will only be working for 2 and a half hours in the morning. And 1 and a half hour in the afternoon. as will be attending presentation from 2.30 to 3.30pm. So grand total of work hours is only FOUR.  I love Fridays. And till now, I am still loving my job as a pharmacist.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother’s Day Special


For this year’s Mother’s Day, decided to go for a Korean theme: bibimbap and kimbap.


Close up of the bibimbap, which is in essence rice mixed with some very healthy and colourful vegetables and Korean hot pepper paste.


This was a picture of the finely shredded vegetables before being assembled.


A close up picture of kimbap, which is the Korean term of Sushi. Decided to call it that coz korean sushi don’t need to prepare soy sauce and wasabi.

Went to my grandmother’s place. All the Happy Mothers and the delicious food…


and the pretty home made blueberry cheese cake.


Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Job update

I had now worked a full three weeks in the hospital pharmacy and till now it had been a tiring but rewarding experience.

However, for now, I sure will not want to be going to the hospital to see a doctor because it was swamped with more people than I think it can manage. As a consequence, for a lot of patients, the trip to the hospital is  a stressful and harrowing experience. Sometimes I chatted with random people while waiting for the lifts and in the hallway, and the topic will always be how it is so hard to find a parking space at all in the hospital compound, and how long they had to wait, first to see the doctor, and then to get their meds from the pharmacy.

In the outpatient pharmacy, the patients lining up were so long that I think they need to wait at least 1 hour to get their meds from the time they put the script in,  even though our client charter stipulated that everyone will be serve within 30 minutes. The situation was so bad that pharmacists from other departments were deployed here for the whole week and there were a few instances of bad-tempered people letting off their steam with loud verbal abuses.   I quite emphasize with their predicament, but there is simply nothing much that I can do. I can increase the speed I assemble the meds, but that will simply increase the chance of mistakes. In terms of meds, I do think accuracy is more important.

What can be hoped now is that the economic recession  will go away as soon as possible. Everyone said that the best job now is in the government sector because of its stability, but we do feel the pinch in terms of increased workload. One of the accident and emergency hospital told me that the number of patients she saw this year easily tripled the number last year as more and more people can’t afford to go to private clinics now.

Anyway, on the bright side of things, my speed of assembling meds had gone up a notch. I can do around 100 scripts per day now, instead of the 50ish when I first started (yeah we need to record how many we did). mistakes were kept down to 1-2 per day. I also spend some time at the front counters everyday, telling patients how adn when to take their meds and give them some reminders, especially for dangerous drugs like warfarin. There is simply no time to talk about side effects, and probably the culture here is still what you don’t know wouldn’t kill you. 

I did three patient counselling in the hospital counselling room last week. The first one was using an insulin pen and a pharmacist was observing me, so it was kind of a nervy experience. But the next two were all done by myself (I guessed I passed lol) and the very first person I counselled by myself turned up to be one of a past director of the hospital, a Datuk and Doctor nonetheless. I taught him how to use a Turbohaler. The pharmacist assistant was like: do you know who that is? when I came out of the room.  The main problem I think is my Bahasa Malaysia fluency. Still need some brush-ups.

Anyway, next week will be my final week in outpatient for now. My next posting will be in the Radiotherapy Unit. No idea what I will do there, but I heard that it is far more relaxing than out-patient..

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday night


He stared at the blank screen of his laptop, the notepad devoid of alphabets.

A story line.. a story line… a story line. He scrunched up the mass of curly hair on his head. A few strand fell down, settling with a cris-crossing pattern on the keyboard.

He clenched his fists in determination. I must write something. He forced his hands to knock in the first letter. And then another.

An hour passed. And another… yet another…

Like a methodical carpenter assembling a few pieces of wood together, an artistic sculpture soon materialised. Planks of wood held together into a structure by scrawny bits of nails here and there. With a little stretch of imagination, some may say it resembled a chair.

“Hey how was your weekend?”

“Oh I took Air Asia for a quick shopping trip to Kuala Lumpur,” breathlessly she said, a radiant pink hue appearing on her cheek.

“Oh My God! It must had been fun. Oh how I wished my weekend was like that!” another she exclaimed, her hands clasped in front of her chest.

“So what did you do?”

“Oh, nothing much. My boyfriend and I just went for a 2 days 1 night trip to Bako National Park,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

“You didn’t say! Or else we could had arranged a trip together!” Both females are now having their hands on each other, patting each other as if congratulating themselves on their accomplished weekends. Their action nearly knocked down some artificial potted plants.

“You gals really know how to have fun,” the other guy said, his back rested languidly upon the cubicle divider, “my weekend playing a round of golf at the new Sarawak Club golf course seems pale in comparison.”

Ooo..you played golf!” They looked at him with round adoring eyes. “You should teach us that next time!”

As the giggling and chatting idled down, they discovered a figure had been lurking unseen right in the middle of the room until now.

“What about you Wally? You had been quiet all the while. Surely not another weekend spent doing nothing?”

The glare of the spotlights on him momentarily blinded him, causing him to blink and squint. With a victorious smile, he shook his head.

“I spent the whole weekend writing a wonderful piece of story. Oh you should had read about it. It’s about this poor guy meeting a rich girl…”

The smile was still hanging on his face when a flashing box that had appeared on his laptop screen for the last five minutes finally caught his attention. Windows had finished updating. It will now restart automatically it said. Before he had time to react, the computer screen turned black, swallowing his story with it.

He stared at his laptop blankly. He felt like screaming but no voice came out. He felt like smashing his laptop into smithereens but instead he sit there, slumped in his chair. Oh how he hated Sunday nights!

Friday, May 01, 2009


After working for just 10 days, I am already rewarded with a holiday. In appreciation for my hard work, the Malaysian government decided that we should have a Labour Day holiday. Yippee!

And so its May already. It wouldn’t be long before we say goodbye to 2009. On a brighter note, there’s still more than half of 2009 to savour (the half glass empty, half glass full view of things).

Okay to expand on my previous post, outpatient pharmacy is very busy. There’s a constant flow of people wanting to take their medicines. And Malaysians are generally an impatient lot. They expect to be served immediately! Why can’t they see there’s a lot of people in front of them and appreciate that it’s not easy trying to assemble the huge amount of medications they need to patch up their bodies.

Of course, I can’t completely blame them. Me too had been guilty of such transgression.  I often sat on the other side of the counter while waiting for my turn in banks and post offices and immigration offices, wondering why it took so long to process something. Slow snails and lazy bums at work! Now that I am on the other side of the counter… lets just say I will be more patient next time I am queuing up and not badmouth those people working on the other side.

My brain often can’t function after I reached home from work. It was exhausting job. Haven’t been writing for a few weeks. I had some descriptive essays written ages ago but haven’t fashioned out a worthwhile story to go with it. I just have enough inspiration to write the short piece below this morning. Hopefully can think of a more substantial storyline this long weekend in between time spent studying. There’s just so much about pharmacy that I need to re-remember. Enjoy.

On opposite sides


He looks at the prominent red LED clock on the wall. He contrasts the numbers displayed with the one printed on his tiny slip of paper. 42 minutes and he is still waiting. He stretches his shoulders awkwardly, trying not to bang into the frail lady sitting on his left and the squirming kid on his right. The back of the plastic seat is too low to support his now aching back. He undo the first two buttons of his shirt in a vain effort to cool down the unattractive concoction of impatient and frustration that is starting to boil in his body.

He glances up at the girl sitting on the other side of the counter. She wears a constant smile, laughing and joking with the young man she is serving. Damn, he thought, there she is, taking her own sweet time swooning over a hunk while he is festering here, waiting ages for his turn. He looks at the red LED clock again and grimaced. Damn, his parking ticket will be due in another 5 minutes. He needs to pick up his son from school in half and hour, and there’s still a heap of papers he need to tackle before he can afford to take forty winks.

At long last, they say goodbyes and the guy is gone. He looks at the number under the clock. 1431 it flashed. Still 3 more numbers to go. He glares at the girl again, he sees her chatting to the girl on the next counter. He groans as the frail lady next to him stands up and shuffles to the counter. This is going to take long too. He sees the girl getting up from her seat and opening a door next to the counter, inviting the old lady to come in. They disappear from his view, and he is left staring at a big blue empty chair behind the counter.

He drabs the perspiration forming like hot water bubbles on his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. He feels dizzy in the afternoon heat that was left encountered by the malfunctioned air-conditioning. A baby cries somewhere in the sea of waiting people. Some kids resort to treat the place as their playground. running and shrieking around.  

1434 the number flashed. His turn. He walks angrily to the counter. What kind of attitude is this, he demands in a raised voice. Do you know how long I had been waiting? Do you know I have other important things to do? He raves and he rants. His anger spills like a flowing river, and it is silently absorbed by the girl on the other side of the counter.

She looks at the man when he finally run out of steam. She offers him a smile, and apologises profusely for the wait. She has a soothing calm voice, a melodious chime in her voice even. She gives him his medications, explaining what they are for. She looks concerned as he spells out his difficulty in remembering when to take his medicines. She nods and inform him the best way to take them, giving simple practical advices. She smiles and she cares. She is the epitome of niceness and he feel a prang of guilt over his own behaviour.

He leaves the place a contented man, with the medicines and a piece of priceless happiness to treat his high blood pressure.

Out of sight, the girl heaves a sigh and shakes her head. This is a hell of a frustrating job. What had she done in her past life that merited a punishment of meeting with a slew of  angry customers everyday, she wonders. Only her self-discipline and work ethics stopped her from yelling back at the man. Whoever coined the word the customer is always right should be shot, she thought angrily. Somehow in the last five minutes, her happiness had flowed to the man and in return, his angriness had filled the void inside her.