4 Mar 2010


Last week, we received a peculiar e-mail proposing a change in our specialist on-call system. Instead of starting our call duties when we arrive at work in the morning, we are to hand over duties at midnight.

The news was received with mixed feelings. Most specialties had already anticipated the change and stopped providing on-call service. Team members who continued to provide emergency service were particularly anxious. If one is paged right after midnight and again before the next midnight, this means one may need to work through two consecutive nights. The dissociation between the specialist and general on-call system also results in lengthening of working hours to fulfill both duties.

Why all these troubles? Under the latest court verdict, doctors are entitled compensatory leave after non-residential call. If the call day spans across midnight, administrators are worried that doctors may take advantage of the system and request two days of compensatory leave.

Having never taken compensatory leave before, I felt somewhat humiliated for being considered as a professional who may take advantage of others. On second thoughts, who can you blame?

During the Zhou Dynasty, Yurang (豫讓) served Earl Zhi (智伯) in Jin (晉國). During a civil war, Earl Zhi was killed by his enemies. Viscount Xiang (趙襄子) hated Earl Zhi so much that he used his skull as a cup.

After this, Yurang repeatedly tried to assassinate Viscount Xiang for revenge. To avoid being recognized by the Viscount and his followers, he rubbed lacquer on his skin to produce ulcers and swallowed hot ashes to destroy his voice. Although all his plans failed in the end, even Viscount Xiang was moved and asked why he had to suffer all these.

“Others treated me as a commoner,” answered Yurang, “and I repaid them as a commoner. Earl Zhi treated me as a hero and I should repay him as a hero.” 《史記•刺客列傳》

Courageous as it might, Yurang’s answer reflects the natural response of most people. My only challenge is if you do not want to be treated as a commoner, do not act like one.

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