Housemanship: 5 Essential Skills You Need To Develope



After you’ve gone through the medical school and obtained your MBBS degree, you move over to the next phase of your career, which is the housemanship. As a House officer, you are expected to take an increasing responsibility for patient care. In order to do this well, you need to develop some important skills.

These skills include personal skills as well as skills in working with others. This will help you to go through the challenges associated with the clinical setting.

In this blog post, we are going to be looking at the five essential skills that every House officer needs to develop in order to be successful as they kick start their medical career.

Why is developing essential skills important for House officers?

This is a question that somebody may want to ask.

“Why do I need to develop these important skills as a house officer? Are they even necessary”?

Well, when you understand that working in the hospital environment with patients and their anxious relatives, as well as meeting with pressures and demands placed on you by your other colleagues, especially the senior colleagues, can be quite tasking, you will agree that you need some essential skills, in order to carry on your work.

As a newly qualified medical doctor in Nigeria, you are issued with a Provisional Registration Certificate by the Medical and Dental Council Of Nigeria (MDCN). When you are done with the housemanship, you will proceed for a full registration which enables you to practice as a medical doctor anywhere in Nigeria.

As a House Officer, these skills will help you to be successful both during the house job and subsequently in your medical career.

Furthermore, these skills can help you to take care of yourself better, as well as to reduce stress and manage your time effectively. These are some of the challenges that House officers face during their career. When you also develop something like good communication skills, it helps you to build a rapport, a connection and trust between you and the patients and their relations.

Building essential skills also helps you in your relationship with other health care professionals as well as the doctors in your unit.

The advantages of developing the basic essential skills are too much to be ignored.

Top 5 essential skills you need to develop as a House officer

We’re going to be diving in straight to explain the five crucial skills you need to navigate through the rigors of the Housemanship. These skills are as follows:

1) Good communication skills

When you talk about communication, we mean a communication that is effective.

This means you are able to express the information you need both your patients and other members of the health team in a way that they perceive that information the same way you want to pass it across to them, without any misunderstanding.

Is good communication essential in medical practice? Absolutely, yes.

When you talk of effective communication, the people you need to communicate with include your patients, patient relatives, the people you work with in the units, your consultants, registrars, senior registrars, people from the other professions, nurses, medical laboratory personnel, physiotherapists, and so on.

Most times, it is difficult for a new house officer to strike a balance on how to communicate with these people without getting into unnecessary disagreements or friction.

Developing a good communication system as a house officer is an invaluable skill that you’re going to be grateful for.

When we talk of good communication, one vital part of it is listening skills. When we talk about listening, we mean giving attention. Some people listen while others appear to listen or pretend to listen while they are actually involved in doing other things.

Some don’t even listen at all and they shout back or talk back at the patients and their relatives or other health care staff. However, this should not be so.

When you talk of listening, it means you need to pay complete attention to the person that is talking.

When you don’t understand anything, or you need the person to explain further what he or she is saying, you can ask the person to do so in order to clarify what they have said.

Be sure you’ve understood what they mean or what they are saying.

When you’re listening well and people know you are listening to them, they feel better, more connected to you and ultimately have more confidence in you as a medical doctor.

They feel you have their interest at heart and they can even do what you want them to do without argument.

Another thing to note is that effective communication requires having empathy or trying to feel what the patients and their relations are going through. Don’t just dismiss their comments or their concern with a wave of hand.

Be respectful towards them and their families. For those who are in pain or distress, for instance, try to alleviate their pain as much as possible and also try to let them understand you feel what they are going through.

2) Time Management Skills

Time management is a very important skill that house officers need to develop. This can be very vital, not just during the house job, but thereafter.

Why do house officers need to learn time management?

Time management is important because in the housemanship there are a lot of things to do and you have a lot of responsibilities.

At the same time, you don’t have all the time in the world.

Most times, if you don’t manage your time well, you will discover that you will always be choked up because you have deadlines you have not met and tasks you have not completed.

In order to manage your time effectively as a house officer, you should have goals and priorities when it comes to your patients.

You should know those who need immediate attention and try to sort them out as soon as possible.

For patients who are stable, you can attend to them immediately after you are finished taking care of the critical ones. Also know how to adjust tasks and do the ones that are very essential first before going to do the less essential ones.

In this way, you’re going to become more effective at managing time.

3) Clinical Skills

When you are a medical school, you will be taught a lot of things. However, as a doctor and a house officer, when you begin to see patients, you will discover a lot during your practice.

You need to be able to elicit good history from a patient, and do thorough physical examination in order to make a good diagnosis. You also need to develop effective treatment plans and you need to also be sure that patients receive good care.

Even when you send people for tests, you should be able to interpret the investigation results and be able to advise accordingly or in collaboration with other members of your units.

As a house officer, as you begin to attend clinics, wardrounds and other unit activities, you will grow in your clinical reasoning and how you assess patients. With time, this becomes easier for you to do.

As you see a patient, you can easily point out what is the patient’s problem and also proffer possible solutions.

4) Teamwork

Teamwork is a very important skill you need to build as a house officer.

You need to learn how to collaborate with everybody, no matter how highly or lowly placed they may be.

For instance, other staff in the hospital may make life easier for you if you’re on good terms with them.

When it comes to your unit, abide by what is done and also collaborate with your colleagues for effective patient care.

Like we’ve said earlier, communication is very important and is also a very notable aspect of team work. Make sure that other members of the unit understand what you’re saying, listen well when they talk and make clarifications as much as you can.

A sense of professionalism

As a medical doctor, you are now a professional and you take full responsibilities for your actions.

When you start your housemanship, you begin to learn in practical terms, how you should behave as a medical doctor and the ethics of the medical profession.

You need to know what you should do and what you should not do. You should also know where to set limits and boundaries in order to maintain a respectful patient- doctor relationship.

Also learn to maintain patients’ privacy and confidentiality.

Do not ever disclose in the open what a patient has told you in private.

When it comes to being a professionalism, also remember having empathy towards your patients.

Try to make them know that you feel the problems they feel too, and that you will do your best to ensure that they have good outcome.

How do you develop these skills?

These skills can be developed through learning and constant liaison with other members of the team.

They can also be developed as you put in resources or efforts into developing yourself or making yourself better as a person.

At the end of the day, when you develop these skills, it makes your medical practice easier and more interesting.

Wrapping Up

So far, in this blog post, we have listed and explained the top 5 skills you need as a house officer for effective medical practice.

Which of the above skills do you consider most important in your practice? Are there other skills you think a house officer needs to develop? Let us hear your opinion in the comments.


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