SIP: Call Superstitions

The day before my next call, I thought I’d focus on an article that appeared in Weekend Today on Saturday.

Bath or bao makes or breaks one’s day

It focuses on an humourous article published in the Annals of Academic Medicine by a team of NUH physicians, including the well-known A/Prof Erle Lim, consultant neurologist and Prof Vernon Oh, senior consultant of general medicine.

Take a Bao if You Are Not Superstitious

Some other common superstitions were not mentioned in the above articles. These are widespread beliefs among healthcare workers.

Prior to the first call, the HO, besides making sure that we had not eaten bao to avoid (包裹了), told us to avoid taking the last lift (which would increase the incidence of patient collapses on call), and asked us to eat dumplings (水饺) because of its similar sound to sleep (睡觉). Under no circumstances were we supposed to say it was “quiet” or a “good call”.

There’s little to no harm in following the superstitions, right? Better be safe than sorry? There’s a bit of irony in doctors, who practise evidence-based medicine, believing in such superstitions. It is also very likely that there’s recall bias involved in these superstitions. After all, the reason the A&E is busy is because you ate that bao earlier and not because of the 5-car pileup on the CTE.

We should drive out these egotistical superstitions. To believe that one’s simple actions, chosen on the basics of linguistics, can affect the operation of a hospital and the health of multiple patients is no short of narcissistic.

Still, don’t expect to see me dressed in black, gorging on bao’s in the last lift and commenting “Wah, tonight damn quiet sia!” anytime soon. I mean, the last lift takes so long to walk to…


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