Best, Wang Shi Kai Email 1 Part 1
Dr. Rich is an Emergency Medicine physician from Los Angeles who is currently practicing in China. He was given the name Wang Shi Kai by the Chinese Medical Board. This is the first of a series of letters where he shares his unique experiences practicing medicine in China. In this series of posts we feature his emails sharing his experiences.
I just came off 6 nights in a row this morning and after my shift I had to put on a shirt and tie and get my picture taken for my Social Insurance card here in China. This is the third picture I’ve had to pose for. The first one was while wearing a white coat and had a blue background, the second was while wearing a white coat from a little farther back with a white background, displaying my hospital’s logo on it (to be used for marketing), and the one today had to be in a dark shirt and red tie. Don’t ask me why!
The past 6 months have been the most difficult of my life. I can’t exactly remember at what point in time it was that I thought it would be a good idea to quit my stable jobs in L.A., throw away 90% of my belongings, donate my car to charity, give up my beachfront condo, and move to a Communist country where I don’t yet speak the language or understand the customs. I started seeing patients 12 hours after landing in China and by the end of the month of August I had clocked in almost 220 hours between all my shifts and the seemingly endless Med Staff orientation classes I had to take. And no one warned me that the Sunday night ER shifts are 14 hours long, from 6 pm to 8 am, apparently a long-standing tradition so that the day doctors can go have dinner with their families. I was scheduled for 3 such shifts last month.
I stayed in a hotel my first week here because the apartment I agreed to rent, a small 1-bedroom unit located on the 9th floor of a 23-story building, was so filthy from the last tenant that it took that long to have it cleaned. I’ve had to make numerous trips to the market to buy pots, pans, dishes, chopsticks, glasses, sheets, pillows, towels, food and so forth. The language barrier makes even the simplest tasks difficult. I still haven’t figured out how to top up my electricity, gas and water. It’s a pay-as-you go system.
If it wasn’t for the help of the ER nurses, who have been awesome taking me shopping and showing me around, even buying me quilts and a mattress pad, and helping me set up a bank account, register at the police station, and get a cell phone plan, I don’t know what I would have done. I’ve eaten some great food already but, unfortunately, I can’t tell you what most of it was. I’m working on my Mandarin and can now count to 1000, say about 15 useful phrases, introduce myself to patients, ask people where it hurts, and order 2 beers and beef, pork or chicken with rice and noodles. I have a long way to go.
During my first week I was taken for a “professional haircut”, so now I look like all the other doctors and nurses, male and female, with short, neat hair. I lost about 15 pounds due to lack of sleep, a major change in my diet, and not working out, among other things. I’m slowly recovering. It’s nice to have gotten back in the gym again. I think it’s funny that there are 3 no smoking signs inside my gym. I’m pretty sure someone would light up if there weren’t.
Every day I walk to the hospital through a working-class neighborhood with lots of street vendors and small shops. I stand out wearing my blue scrubs, carrying a white jacket and stethoscope. People stared a lot in the beginning. Now they recognize me and say hello… TO BE CONTINUED.
In the next post the rest of the first email will be revealed. Dr. Rich will describe and contrast working for both a private and a public hospital in China.
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