Saturday, June 30, 2012

Canada suspends Skilled Worker and Investor immigrants

The following are some extracts from the news released on the Canada Immigration and Citizenship website on 28-Jun-2012.

Effective July 1st, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will place a temporary pause on new applications to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP). 
[... snip ...] 
Since the launch of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012, Minister Kenney has announced a series of changes to CIC’s economic immigration programs. They include:
  • eliminating the backlog of old FSWP applications;
  • improving the selection of FSWs;
  • creating a new Federal Skilled Trades Program;
  • modifying the Canadian Experience Class to help transition successful skilled temporary workers to permanent residence;
  • changing business immigration programs to target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and more innovative entrepreneurs; and
  • moving towards a new application management system, to develop a pool of skilled workers who arrive in Canada ready to begin employment.*
“This temporary pause on new Federal Skilled Worker applications will allow us to set the program on a new course as we intend to launch revised selection criteria soon,” said Minister Kenney. “The pause has no impact on the number of workers Canada admits into the country, as CIC continues to process applications already received. Current immigration remains at historically high levels.” 
Application intake is expected to resume in January 2013, when the proposed FSWP regulatory changes – which will be published in the Canada Gazette in the coming months – are expected to come into force.

*Note: I hope those immigrants who complain about barriers to entry and/or racism are "happy" now. "Spoiling the market for those following after one's path" comes to mind. While we don't know what the new requirements for Federal Skilled Workers would be, "workers who arrive in Canada ready to begin employment" hints that people like my classmates who complain about having to undergo GNIE training or the PRC who could not get his credentials recognized in Canada may not even have a chance to become Canadian Permanent Residents in the first place. [Think of the Australian General Skilled Migration skills assessment requirement, e.g. for international nurses.] So there, never confuse a privilege with a right.


Once again, I thank my lucky stars that bad things happened in my life at the right times to trigger a series of events (click herehere and here), such that I landed up in Canada where I am now. As someone whom I met at my Singapore hospital's orientation used to sing, "Always look on the bright side of life!"

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
By Monty Python

Singapore is more expensive than Canada

I just reviewed Mercer's "Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2012 – city ranking" published on the 12-Jun-2012. Selected quotes from Mercer:
"Tokyo is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, pushing Luanda, Angola, down to second position, according to Mercer’s latest Cost of Living Survey. Osaka is in third position, up three places from last year, whereas Moscow remains in fourth and Geneva in fifth positions. Singapore and Zurich share sixth place, up two and one places respectively since 2011."
"Toronto (61) remains the highest ranking city in Canada, closely followed by Vancouver (63). Montréal (87) has dropped eight places, whereas Calgary (92) has climbed four."
The Mercer international basket includes rental accommodation costs. I think that probably drove Singapore up to the 6th position to tie with Geneva. We know that rental costs depends on the demand (e.g. open foreign labour floodgates) and supply (i.e. limited land size, Singapore is the 193rd largest country by land size compared to Canada at 2nd place). In addition, rental costs also correlate to costs of owning/leasing a property, which in turn correlates to the developer's costs, which in turn correlates to land costs, for which the PAP government claims that it would be akin to raiding the reserves if land was sold at concessionary prices, even for public housing. IMHO, one may conclude that according to the PAP government: it is more important to enrich the multi-billion dollars reserves than to support the basic living needs of Singapore citizens.

Another point to note: one knee-jerk reaction against introducing a minimum wage policy in Singapore is the (unproven) claim that it would drive the cost of living up through the roof, and thus the poor will suffer even more. Well, Canada has minimum wages. In B.C. the minimum wage is currently CAD10.25 per hour (increased since 1st May 2012). Yet, Vancouver is ranked only the 63rd most expensive city, compared with Singapore at the 6th position.


Check out Expatistan - Cost of Living Index for a detail breakdown of city-vs-city cost of living comparison. Here's the Singapore (Singapore) vs Vancouver (Canada) one.


Oh, not forgetting that Canada ranks as the 5th happiest place to live on earth. According to News1130 on the World Happiness Report 2012: "Denmark took first place, followed by Norway, Finland and the Netherlands." Note: All the top 5 countries have high income tax, low income inequality, and relatively high state social welfare expenditure.

Where is Singapore on the happiness index? Ok, it didn't do that badly. At 33rd worldwide, Singapore tops the list amongst all Asian countries. It is followed by Japan (44), Taiwan (46), South Korea (56), Hong Kong (67) and mainland China (112).

GNIE: Anecdotal notes = Get out of jail, free pass

I hope my previous blog entry about failing at clinical does not scare my GNIE-related readers unnecessarily.

If anything, here is a secret that I want to share. Those who have played Monopoly before would know of the "Get out of jail, free" cards. Well, when it comes to GNIE clinical, the anecdotal notes is our "Get out of jail, free" pass. 

Given that it is inevitable that we will make mistakes at clinical, what matters then is what we do when we make a mistake.
  • If we become aware of our own mistake made while at clinical, we can save the situation by reporting the situation immediately to the CI, the staff nurse and other relevant personnel. Do it with an appropriate attitude (i.e. state the facts, don't push the blame away, accept our part in causing the problem). Then discuss with the CI interventions to correct the impact of the mistake and follow-up on them. Finally, chart the incident accordingly in the nursing notes, and incident report if required.
  • If we only become aware of our mistake when prompted by the CI, admit to our mistake immediately with an appropriate attitude and take appropriate actions (see above).
  • If we only become aware of our mistake during post-conference discussions, then admit to our mistake immediately with an appropriate attitude (see above).
In all of the above situations, take note of the mistakes made, the corrective actions taken if any, and any ideas on how to avoid a repeat in future. Document all of that into the anecdotal notes under the Responsibility and Accountability section (note: link has been disabled). By doing so, we can turn a "negative" (i.e. mistake made) into a "positive" (i.e. we are responsible and accountable for our mistakes made).

You can see from examples from my anecdotal notes that I have used the above successfully. As far as I know, some other classmates have also used this approach successfully. To quote a classmate of mine, "For any mistake that I've made, big or small mistake, I will document it in my anecdotal notes. Then she is ok." [That is, the CI is ok with the student's competency.]

That said, the anecdotal notes are not a free pass to keep repeating the same mistakes. It will not work if we declare our plans to avoid re-occurence but do not follow up on it. We owe it to ourselves and our patients to pull up our socks and ensure that we improve.

GNIE: Anatomy of a clinical failure

The news is out. There is a couple of my classmates who failed at clinical this round. They are likely to go through the appeal process. In respect for their confidentiality, I would not share about the details. However, I think it would be useful for my readers heading to the GNIE program to recognize the warning signs.

From what I've gathered to-date: the signs were there for those involved.
  • Being supervised closely by the CI even on the latter 1/2 of their clinical period.
  • Long replies from the CI to their anecdotal notes, with specific examples of how/why they were not meeting the competencies. [Note: My clinical group caught up to this risk factor quite quickly because sometimes we discussed the "confidential" feedback we got from the CI. We joked about how "No news is good news, and short replies are good replies."]
  • The CI's long replies have repeated reminders of the same/similar problem(s) again and again because of a lack of acknowledgement by the student(s) of the issue.
  • Being made to sign a "contract for learning" in the latter 1/2 of the clinical period. This is a risk factor, but it does not seal one's fate because there is someone who passed despite the "contract".

One of those who failed is my friend, so I am not happy for her situation. She sought my help only after her 2nd last week of clinical, i.e. leaving only the final week (i.e. last 2 clinical days) to show any improvement. I helped her with her anecdotal notes for that 2nd last week based on information she supplied me. She said that she doesn't know what the CI wanted of her, so I asked her if anything specific happened, to which she shared some issues but denied anything else of significance. [On hindsight: unless the person involved is able -- i.e. has enough awareness, i.e. not stuck in the blind spots -- and willing to share the whole truth, it is very hard for others to help them successfully.] It was only later, after her final clinical week and just the day before the failure was announced, that she emailed me the CI's reply to her (dated before her final clinical week) to the anecdotal notes that I had helped her prepare. The CI's reply revealed that my friend had omitted mentioning to me some significant issues that had happened. [Again on hindsight: Perhaps I wasn't culturally sensitive enough or my EQ wasn't good enough to pick up earlier that my friend had omitted telling me some stuff.]
This is what I replied my friend after reading the CI's reply: I am emailing this reply only because of the restrictions we face regarding such discussion at the moment. My 2 cents: I can only say that I wish you had shown me this earlier -- like before your last 2 days of clinical, so that I could advise you accordingly. It is too late now to do anything on the "physical world" about your last 2 days. Do you still have any outstanding tasks related to clinical left to do (e.g. self-evaluation, etc)? At this moment, all you can do is just hang in there and hope that your final days were ok. I am sorry, I am not so optimistic after reading this document, nevertheless you have a thread of hope -- "hang in there".
From what I've heard from the grapevine, the other person who failed also had blind spotsAfter the failure was announced, she showed her anecdotal notes and the CI's replies to another classmate. It was only when the other classmate advised her that she realized her blind spots. 

So my 2 cents to those asking for help to pass: 
  • Please ask for help ASAP (as soon as possible).
  • If in doubt, ask for help. [That is what my clinical group members did. From there, if we thought that anyone is at risk, we would help check that person's work, supported him/her and covered each other's asses. I, too, survived thanks to my clinical group members' support.] 
  • Be totally open about what happened. It is not a time to "save face".

Now is past the stage of taking corrective action at clinical. Now is the stage of appeal. Strategy dictates that the focus now should be on how to snare another chance -- hopefully one with the minimal possible impact on my friend's GNIE progression.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Facebook: You'll never learn if you don't practice

Coincidentally, I saw a Facebook posting today by a Canadian Facebook friend (of a friend):
"I am all for people emigrating from their countries to better their lives....but when you get here and want to be a Canadian...speak English in public. Do not resort to your native tongue even with other family members. It is rude. I hate being in a bank where a teller chitty chats with someone in a foreign language (and you can tell) while you stand in line....waiting and waiting. I love that you have 2 languages and teach your children.....but PLEASE keep it at home. You will never learn if you don't practice."
Actually her remark above runs counter to the Canadian value of "Multiculturalism". This person lives in Surrey, reputedly a South Asian ethnic enclave. Nevertheless, based on my Facebook interactions with her (I am clearly ethnic Chinese from my FB profile photo and our mutual friend is also ethnic Chinese), this person does not come across as racist, so why this comment? One Sociology concept comes to mind -- "limits to cultural absorptive capacity".

Anyway, this reminds me of what I had just written about speaking the official language and/or lingua franca in professional settings.

As I've mentioned before the cons of institutional completeness cannot be ignored. Or to quote my Facebook friend RW once again
"Sometimes this "siege" mentality* can backfire badly. I can almost picture the situation in Vancouver might eventually escalate to that of France and Singapore."  
*Note: I think RW was referring to some new immigrants' refusal to integrate.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

GNIE: Sharing notes

As I have blogged about before, some people "take but don't give" and yet expect others to share notes with them.

Well, it is the 2nd and final exam for Sociology tomorrow. As usual, some people skip class, without explanations given to the Sociology lecturer whom they know does not take attendance. Early Wednesday morning, I scanned and emailed all my handwritten notes to most of my classmates, excluding AmP, AmJ (as per previous exam), and JC and DL.

Why are JC and DL from the Fillipino group added to the list? I know from observation (and which AA confirmed) that JC and DL have various notes from the seniors but they never shared with others in the group, not even with their fellow Filipinos. Instead, they asked for notes from IT, myself and others in the past. Given JC's selfish behaviour at our clinical [click here and here] I decided to exclude JC and her buddy DL as well.
In addition, JC and her buddy DL got on my nerves by their insistence on speaking Tagalog in our mixed group, even talking past me (sometimes I sat in-between them and the others) in Tagalog to the other Filipinos. They merrily continue to disregard me even when I made guestures of awkwardness (e.g. cough-cough, "following" their conversation by turning to face to the person speaking, give them my "interested" look, remarking "Huh?"). Often the other Filipinos will quickly switch to English, recognizing how disrespectful and non-inclusive such behaviour is. After observing for some time, I noted that 90+% of the time JC and DL were the 2 culprits of being non-inclusive and instigating the other Filipinos to join their behaviour.
Now, if JC and DL do not want me to join the Filipino group, they should jolly well check with the other Filipinos -- the others have no problem talking to each other and me in English. [And it's not like I need to be with them.] Personally, I find it ironic that JC and DL are the 2 who complained the loudest about CRNBC's rising English requirements given that they do not practise conversing in English when they have the opportunity to. As it is, they are already breaking the school rules of "English only" for GNIE students while on campus. If they continue to do that while nursing in Canada, they can lose their RN license for not meeting the CRNBC "Provision of Service to the Public" standard, i.e. by refusing to collaborate in English. No sympathy from me for such nurses. [FYI, in contrast, AP's English is worse than JC's and DL's but she has consistently shown enough sensitivity to be inclusive in her conversations.] 
Note: I am not directing this at Filipinos, per se. The rule of thumb is, it is only professional to speak the official language and/or lingua franca while at work or in a professional setting. In general, those who want to speak Tagalog at work, should work in The Philippines. Similarly, for Mandarin, work in PRC or Taiwan. Similarly, for Hindi or Punjabi, work in India. And so on.
Anyway, back to my Sociology notes. One of my classmates SP came over during break today to clarify something in my notes which she had printed out. After class, I headed for the library, walking behind AmP and AmJ. They suddenly turned around and said, "You sent the notes to the whole class. We didn't receive it."

I replied, "I didn't send the notes to the whole class."

AmJ countered, "SP told us that you sent the notes to the whole class."

AmP added, "We didn't receive it."

I replied, "No, I didn't send to the whole class. Did you attend class?"
[I know that AmJ skipped one or more classes without explanation. And AmP had skipped classes before too.]
AmJ replied, "I didn't go for class one week."

I replied, "I only share my notes with those who attend classes..."

AmJ interjected, "But I was having asthma, cold, and flu and all."

AmP said something in support of AmJ. [I forgot what she said.]

I added, "... and are not selfish or competitive."

AmJ and AmP challenged, "But you shared it with others? No?" [Sorry, I cannot remember if those were their exact words.]

I replied calmly and firmly, "It is not my duty to help you."

At which point they finally realize that they cannot pressurize me to share my notes. AmP turned and said as she walked away, "It's ok, I have my own notes."

AmJ looked at me, then turned to AmP and then back to me and said, "It's ok, I will borrow her notes."

I said, "Yes, you can get help from her."

As I've mentioned before, I no longer believe in helping those who are kiasu (competitive). Anyway, the Sociology lecturer pretty much assured us that all of us will pass, so why worry? Lastly, I wonder how these 2 teach their children manners when they don't even say "please" or "thank you" when asking for favours.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Final fireworks before exit 回光返照

On our last weekend of clinical, some things happened which triggered my clinical group to discuss about our experience with patients in their final days. Amongst those of us* who have had a patient who passed away on our shift and/or within days after, the "final fireworks before exit" [回光返照] symptom was often observed. Even my CI* agreed based on her experience.
*Note: The "final fireworks before exit" [回光返照] is not a culture-specific observation. The group above includes Filipino, Indian, Singaporean and Canadian nurses.
This and other interesting skills/things that we learn along the way makes nursing a very practical vocation -- with learning relevant to real-life.

Lazy weekend = My dream retirement

Since my surgical clinical was completed last week, I had my much appreciated 1st long weekend since the start of this school semester.

After school on Friday, I went to the supermarket to stock up my fridge. Thereafter over the weekend, I stayed home and did nothing of consequence. Slept+++, did my laundry, cleaned my bedsheets and bed items, cleaned my room, surfed internet, watch YouTube videos, chatted with my housemates, etc. On Monday, I prepped for my 1st formal event in Metro Vancouver (donned a ballroom gown), attended a theatre awards ceremony in the evening (we were nominated albeit we didn't win), and caught up with some friends. Lazed around at home again today (Tuesday), doing more non-consequent stuff. 

Hmm, it made me think: that is how I would like my retirement to be -- a lazy, relaxed affair. Maybe catching up with friends weekly, a weekly volunteer assignment (to continue contributing to my community), participating in some cultural, nature-appreciation or other related events fortnightly, and then mostly sitting back, relaxing and doing absolutely nothing of consequence.

Yeah! I don't care if I am labelled an under-motivated underachiever in life. All I care is that I can envision a happy retirement in Canada. That makes me happy, and that is all that matters.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstice: the push & pull of migration

Summer solstice: the day Mr Sun works his longest shift each year. Mr Sun started work with dawn at 4+ am this morning. It is now 9:45pm and he is still busy shining his last glimmer of twilight, passing report to Mr Moon who will be taking over his shift.
Note: Summer solstice officially started yesterday evening on 20-June-2012 at 5pm Vancouver time for 24 hours.

I emigrated from Singapore due more to the push factors than the pull factors. The Singapore policies being a major contributor -- given that I often worry about my future when I become an elderly single person in an increasingly unequal society (click here and here); and its potential impact. In fact, I had wondered if and how long I could survive in Canada's cold weather. Now that I am here in Canada, I really appreciate the cycle of life and passing of time that the seasons mark.

My friend PN, on the other hand, is the reverse of me. She immigrated to Canada due more to the pull factors than the push factors. She had always wanted to try living in a country with 4 notably different seasons and plenty of nature walks. It is only after arriving here that she started looking at Singapore from an outsiders' perspective and saw the loopholes and issues with the current Singapore policies.

Different strokes for different folks. Nevertheless, now that we're here, we share the same goal of integrating into the Canadian society and re-establishing our lives here.

GNIE: Where have the students gone?

I was late for school today. When I entered the classroom, it occurred to me that it seemed rather empty for a class of 35. So for the first time, I counted the students while sitting in class. There were 7 missing, all from the other sub-group -- that is the sub-group that complained against lecturer H. [Click here and here for details.]

I noticed that lecturer H seems less and less interested in teaching us recently. E.g. Yesterday, she simply showed us 2 videos on YouTube to explain the reproductive system and then gave some worksheets for us to discuss in teams. One of the YouTube videos was an Islamic creationist video which interspersed praises for God and the Koran for the perfect design of the sperm, etc, between nuggets of anatomy and physiology facts. [Note: As far as we know, lecturer H isn't a Muslim, so it is safe to assume that she didn't show the video with any religious intent.]
After several rounds of praises for the creationist God and the Koran from the video, I couldn't help but chuckle whenever the praises get repeated. IJ (being Catholic) teased me in mock annoyance, "You pagan!" and I did a mock celebratory twist (while seated on my chair) and joked, "Well, today is a pagan's day - Summer Solstice starts today!"
After school today, I remarked to LP, AP and IT about my observations. All agreed with my observation about the change in lecturer H's attitude. Both LP and IT remarked that lecturer H was so enthusiastic in the beginning (e.g. explaining to us what was important to know for each topic), different from her current attitude. IT added that we are being short-changed of our learning, no thanks to the short-sightedness of the AXE students in the other group, some of whom didn't even bother to attend class now.

It is a pity. Sometimes students forget that they exist as part of a bigger system. When they exert a force in action, there is likely to be some kind of reaction. The type of reaction one gets often co-relates with the type of action one took.

Monday, June 18, 2012

GNIE milestone: 2nd clinical completed!

My clinical group is so happy today. As a result of 2 public holidays falling on our scheduled clinical days, rescheduling our clinical shifts, and doing several extended shifts, we finished clinical earlier than scheduled. Best part is...
Looking back, my clinical group has its challenges. [Click here and here.] Nevertheless, we are a comparatively united group overall. As the clinical instructor (CI) remarked, she noticed that we often helped each other out. I will not reveal the details, but there are things that we tell each other within the group that even the CI and our other classmates (not from our clinical group) do not know about. Yes, we covered each other's asses.

While waiting for our turn at evaluation and after we were done, we (well, at least most of us) kept remarking to each other how lucky we felt to be in our clinical group. We were well aware of the issues faced by the other clinical groups. [Click here for an example.]

Going forward, we will part ways for our future clinical postings. This is because our next clinical in this semester is the "Practicum", where students will be shuffled into new "Practicum" groups and posted to different units with a CI available on-call in the hospital. Thereafter, there will be a "Preceptorship" in the final semester, where each student is assigned to understudy a staff on the unit and there will not be a CI at the hospital. In both cases, we can no longer rely on getting help from our usual clinical group-mates, but have to learn to work with our new teams and/or the unit's staff.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Neuro-plasticity research?

I met a neuro-psychologist recently by chance. He talked about his research in neuro-plasticity. Today, I shared with him my research idea regarding medical imaging and visual and/or audio hallucinations. He remarked, 
"I like the way you think. You have a good brain. You should go into research."
Hmm, perhaps I should revisit my previous idea on neurology research. The neuro-psychologist mentioned though that B.C. has less funding for research compared with Toronto, Montreal, or even USA. Guess, if that is going to be my path, it will be a long-haul journey getting there.

Right now, I am "marketing" myself as a future nurse informaticist (a.k.a. nurse informatician), i.e. being a nurse/healthcare professional specializing in IT (information technology). It is a logical way to combine my skills and strengths. Being a Nurse Informaticist is a twist on suggestions, by several friends, for me be an IT professional specializing in healthcare systems.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

GNIE: Skipped school

I skipped school today. When I woke up in this morning, my throat didn't feel good, my nose felt a flu coming, and my mood was blue. I emailed lecturer H and texted AP about my absence from school at 6+am. 

Around the same time, my Korean classmate SS texted me asking me to inform the lecturer that she was sick and would miss class. SS also requested me to lend her my lecture notes. I replied her that I was also sick. She immediately text replied me that she would ask HJ (the other Korean classmate) and PY (the PRC) for today's notes and share them with me later. That's what I like about SS, she understood collaboration.


Took the day off. I just didn't feel like socializing, except for minimal small talk with my landlord and housemates. My landlord was surprised that I was home today (guess he knew my schedule by now), so he asked “今天放假?” ["Day-off today?"]

To which I smile and replied (a white lie), “Mmm, 今天放假一天。” ["Mmm, 1 day-off today."]

After 2 days off (yesterday and today), I feel better this evening. Once again, I feel happy just being in Canada. I guess I've been thinking too much. The following songs came to mind.

笑傲江湖:主題曲 《滄海一聲笑》
["Laughing over worldly affairs" movie : theme song "A laugh over the sea (of life)"]

[Only remember today's laughter]
This song is from the movie “东方不败”。["Undefeated in the East"]

[To be the real me]
This song is from the movie “东方不败”。["Undefeated in the East"]


This evening, both SS and IT texted me the tips for tomorrow's nursing theory test. It made me happy that some of my GNIE classmates do share afterall.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MetroVancouver: Should you merely adjust to a work adjustment?

The following an article from the Metro Vancouver newspaper. This is posted up in support of aSingaporeanSon's blog entry. Not only do Canadians have minimum wages which can buy a decent life, they also enjoy various workplace laws that recognize the power differential between the employers and the employees, and lean towards protecting the employees. See news article below for an example.

Click to download the full-size image

Since Harper's (originally from Alberta) majority Conservative government win in May-2011, such rights are slowly eroded away. Nevertheless, Harper's Conservatives will still have to stay right of centre (and not push further right) because many Canadians are already repulsed by his recent bills, e.g. the move to block some job actions (i.e. labour strike), delay the OAS withdrawal date (i.e. change the Old Age Supplement starting age from 65 to 67), the attempt to undercut political-diversity funding and public media funding (i.e. CBC).

Now there are pros and cons to such pro-employee labour laws. IMHO, the pros do not need much elaboration since many people are employees. Such policies contribute to Canada ranking 5th on the "happiness index" -- after Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, all of which have high income taxes and high income equality. The cons are unemployment rate is comparatively higher in Canada (7.2% in March 2012) than Singapore (1.9% in March 2011); and going by GDP (PPP) per capita, Singapore (at $59,711) seems much richer than Canada (at $40,541). A word of caution for those who think, "Ohh, 7.2%! Almost 4x Singapore's unemployment rate, bad, bad!" -- think about what those numbers actually mean. [I'm going to refer you to LIFT for his excellent explanation.]

The ultimate question is where do you stand personally in the game? [Note: For an explanation on that, click here for details on "Why averages don't matter" (again) by LIFT.]

WTF did I just say?

Warning: This is a super long-winded post consisting of:
The main story,
Part 1 of 2 for note 1,
Part 2 of 2 for note 1,
Case 1 of 3 for note 2,
Case 2 of 3 for note 2,
Case 3 of 3 for note 2, and
some reflections.


Main story

This week, I had a pretty tough time handling kiasu-ism1 and bullying amongst my GNIE classmates in school. This Sunday and Monday, the freaking competitiveness1 and selfishness of my Filipino clinical group-mate JC (and to a smaller degree IT) rubbed against me. 
In fact, I suspect that by morning break today (Monday), JC probably realized that she had somehow offended me. Suddenly she was sucking up to me, kissing my ass by lathering on flattery of my nursing skills -- out of ear-shot of the CI (and my other classmates), of course! Sorry, no cure. For someone who had regularly asked for and received help from me, but frequently excused herself when I asked her for help in return (even when I was assisting her patient, not mine), flattery isn't going to buy my goodwill back. In fact, when I mentioned to AP about my observations of JC's behaviour, AP agreed that JC is a selfish bitch.
At the end of our extended shift today (Monday), a minor incident happened where an overworked and highly-strung RN staff made a small error. She insisted on ordering a pre-mixed IV medication from the pharmacy instead of allowing the clinical instructor (CI) to supervise a student (AP) to do mixing. This resulted in a delay in medication and our CI and my group-mate AP laughing with a 幸灾乐祸 [celebrating over others' misfortune] glee because they were offended by the RN's insistence.
Note: Earlier today, that same RN also harassed our CI to harass the student (yours truly) to complete the pre-op checklist at around 1420, before our 1/2 hour break at 1445, even though the patient was only due for operation at 1700. Actually by then, the case had already been transferred from the RN to her LPN colleague. And strangely, the RN did not come to me directly regarding the pre-op checklist, but went to our CI several times and each of my other student nurse classmates. Initially when my CI asked me for it, I was transferring my patient from bed to chair with assistance from my classmate KS. When I was done with that, I went back to the nurses station to check the charts (to do the pre-op checklist), but decided that I should re-write my nursing notes as I felt that my English expression was ambiguous at one part. While I was transferring the nursing notes to a fresh charting sheet, the LPN chased me once and to which I replied, "I will do it once I'm done transferring my nursing notes. Later, if my CI is not free; can you guide me through it?" I think the LPN then chased our CI once for it. Thereafter, our CI chased me several more times for it. 
Anyway, long story short, I was a little annoyed but mostly bemused by this roundabout chasing. Then I found out later that the RN had her 2 stable patients (of her 4 workload) transferred out of her hands and dumped with 2 new cases, and then subsequently when 1 of the new cases stabilized, she was dumped with more new cases (my deductions based on the census board statistics and snippets of conversation between the RN and the unit clerk), my perspective changed to one of sympathy.
AP was laughing gleefully, "Serve that smartypants RN right!" repeating her story to my classmates on our way out of the hospital, again in our carpool home and repeatedly laughing with 幸灾乐祸 [celebrating over others' misfortune] glee. That was it! At was the last straw that broke the camel's back. This week I had found one or another behaviour of each of my Filipino classmates beyond minor irritation. Somehow AP's 幸灾乐祸 [celebrating over others' misfortune] glee over and over again on our carpool ride home triggered in my mind some association with the "Filipino selfishness and cruelty" [click here, here and here] especially when group loyalty runs amok.

I suddenly blurted out, "Look, maybe it's one of those busy days where everyone had a bad day. That RN had her 2 stable cases taken away from her and dumped with more and more new cases."

AP challenged, "Are you sure she had new cases?"

I rebutted, "Yes, IT and my cases were hers, taken off her hands. She was then dumped with 2 new cases. One of those was YOURS. When you were passing report to her, I noticed on the (census) board that she was being dumped with more new cases. Did you not notice that? How would you feel if YOU were that RN?"

I added, "I had bullied new people before, when we were so busy and overworked."2
[I am human, I have my flaws and they rear their ugly heads when I am overstressed. Aiming for a less stressful and healthier work environment is part of the reason why I chose to hasten my departure from Singapore despite the hefty costs incurred (especially the repayment of uncompleted bond). 2 of the 3 alleged bullying cases happened during my Singapore nursing student days when I was accused by 2 classmates of bullying. Bear in mind that I had worked for less than 1.5 years as an RN in Singapore and I was mostly a victim or a by-stander in nursing-workplace bullying.]
JC slimed, "I didn't have a bad day! I had a wonderful day."

To which I thought, "That's because you're a selfish bitch!" but I held my tongue. I had done enough damage for the day. The car journey was quiet for a while.


Part 1 of 2 for note 1

1Note: Here's the part 1 of the details regarding kiasu-ism, the Filipinos and JC in particular.

Besides the results of the first nursing theory test for this semester being released last week, the first Sociology test result was also released. When the Sociology professor returned us our papers for review, I was seated with IJ to my right, and LP to his right. Behind us were PT, AP, and IT respectively at our usual Filipino corner of the classroom. JC and DL were seated on the middle aisle together with the Filipinos from the other sub-group as usual. As our marks were written on the test paper returned to us, IJ, LP, PT, AP and IT all knew my score.

The gang made an audible "Wow!" I suspect they did it to piss-off the competitive Filipino folks from the other sub-group. [Note: As I commented in aSingaporeanSon's blog, they expect me to carry the Filipino flag for our sub-group as well.] When I walked to the front to return the papers later, one of my Indian sub-group classmate asked in-front of the other Indians "How much did you score?" to which I declined to reveal despite repeated teasing/pressure from her and the other Indians to reveal the number.

Since JC did not sit with us, she did not know my score. Suffice to say, she guessed that it was kind of high. On Saturday morning, while waiting for IT to fetch us in our carpool, she "casually" asked, "WD, have you done your Sociology assignment?"

I replied in negative. Then she expressed, "I haven't done it either. But it is easy for you, since your English is sooooo good."

I decided not to take her bait. After a pause, JC asked, "WD, what did you get for Sociology test?"

I gave a shrug and a roundabout answer, "I'm happy with my marks."

JC opened her mouth (I think she was about to push on for the number) when thankfully, the other Indian in clinical sub-group RR chipped in with, "We all pass, y'know."

I smiled at RR and rejoined, "We all passed. That's the most important thing. Happy!"

The reason why I was guarded against JC is that she had shown selfish, competitive and manipulative behaviours since the first semester. I suspect Filipino loyalty decrees that they accept her as part of the group and close their eyes to her flaws.

p.s. In any case, I am not the one with the highest score. According to AP, when the Filipino gang gave the "Wow!" remark, the professor responded by mentioning quickly and quietly that there is someone else who scored 70 marks (91%). Frankly I don't care either way, I'm just here to learn, make sure that I pass the GNIE course... and hopefully have some fun along the way.


Part 2 of 2 for note 1

1Note: Here's the part 2 of the details regarding kiasu-ism and my clinical group in particular. This is something that I did not share with others in the class or my clinical group, because I wanted to preserve the "group unity" image of my clinical group.

Flashback to the last semester before we started our first clinical. By then, we had several weeks in class and the results of our first pharmacology test and our 1st 2 nursing theory tests. Suffice to say that the Filipinos were pissed off with AmP's competitiveness and her look-down her nose attitude, thus they adopted me as the Filipino flag bearer since I hang out with them for lunch.

As the 1st day of clinical approached, PT, IT and a few others, each approached me privately to be paired with them. They wanted to be paired with a perceived "strong" partner. To each of them, I gave a non-commital "Sure, I don't mind", because frankly I don't care as long as we try to work together. I had told them frankly that I am not that great when it comes to clinical, yet I continued to receive repeated requests even until the night before our 1st clinical orientation. By then, I recognized that AP probably needed support and either IT or myself would be best placed to assist her. Thus, when IT texted me the night before the clinical to further confirm that I would partner with him, I replied, "Let's help everyone pass the clinical. You and I are probably the strongest in the group, let's each pair up with a weaker student, so that we may all pass."

IT replied, "Let's see what the CI assigns. We may not get to choose our partners."


Case 1 of 3 for note 2

2Note: Here's case 1 of 3 details of my bullying new people while nursing in Singapore.

Case 1: Let's start with RC. RC, my nursing buddy CL and I were sponsored by (i.e. bonded to) same hospital under the Accelerated Diploma in Nursing scheme.

I met RC during the pre-course orientation, we have not met CL yet. She was super-sociable, critical of people who were selfish and had come from an NGO servicing the handicapped. We clicked quickly. Since she told me that she had some graphics background & publishing skills and had done various graphic design works for her NGO (e.g. the newsletter, brochures, etc), I offered her an opportunity to partner with me on an electronic newsletter contract that I was contemplating to bid for from my banking client. I am a software techie who dips her toes occasionally into the design stuff when needs arise, so having a graphic design oriented partner would be great. RC agreed and was excited about it. I went ahead to bid for the contract and won it based on my reputation amongst the banking staff and my assurance of delivery of a highly polished product. We started cracking on the work.

RC's initial submissions were (IMHO) amateur efforts. When I gave her constructive suggestions on how to re-work the art (since I knew the bank's standard pretty well), she insisted on making only minor changes each time and I had to repeat my suggestions again and again. After a few rounds, she became defensive. Since she seemed busy, I told her that I would create the first composite image to meet the progress deadlines, which I did. I presented the first composite to the client and did some simple edits as per the clients' request. Then I passed my entire work done to-date to RC for any follow-up changes. Now anyone who had worked within the artistic circle professionally would be familiar with clients having their own 2 cents input on adjustments here and there until "press time". RC took those personally, dragged on the delivery, and finally just before the next deadline told me that she's out! I pressed on to create a product framework myself, gave it to my client and apologized to them honestly that I could not complete the project as my creative partner had bailed on me. My clients were understanding enough, offered to pay me for the efforts to-date, after all I did create a usable framework that they loved. I emailed them in black-and-white that I would not charge them for the framework as a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience caused to them by my change of plans. From there I knew that RC was not open to constructive criticisms and so I was very careful with any suggestions to her.

When school started we met CL and our other classmates. RC, CL and I and several others sponsored by another restructured hospital decided to form a group. CL was pleasant, non-competitive (focused on passing), had just entered motherhood, juggling between her toddler and her studies. I instinctively felt supportive of CL. RC too stated that she just wanted to pass, but each time the results of our first tests came out, she could not stop whining about how/why CL and I did better than her. Finally I told her in a roundabout way* (bearing in mind from past experience that she did not like direct criticisms) not to compare her grades against others, especially since she had already achieved her objective of passing. I didn't dare to tell her that I could get away with passing with minimal effort because of my IQ.
*Note: What I cited was my experience in a university hostel where myself, a guy and a gal were studying for Operations Research (a form of mathematics) together as fellow hostelites. Each time, the guy would show us the questions he had solved and asked me about the questions that he was stuck on; the gal would complain how she could not solve any despite trying; and I would be the blur one who didn't even know which questions were on our assignment, but went through formulating the solutions with both. When the exam results came, both the guy and the gal failed, but I passed that unit. The gal was fuming mad that "someone who didn't even study had passed but she who had put in so much effort didn't". In fact, she did not speak to me for some time over "how unfair life is". [Frankly, I found it ironic that she would be jumping about how unfair life is, given her family's socio-economic background (hint: ivory chopsticks for daily use, anyone?) and how pampered she was by her parents, over her brother. Anyway, that's a different story, and it's all good now that she is happily married and wealthy.]
Anyway, RC started spreading gossips behind my back that I was a show-off with "high IQ, no EQ". CL was upset and concerned so she pulled me aside and told me about it. I laughed that RC only got the gossip 1/2 right. That's when I confessed to CL about my high IQ. I also told her briefly about RC's earlier behaviour on our business collaboration. Well, my EQ isn't great, but it is certainly not zero. At least I know how to please my clients. CL told me clearly that she saw the whole process of what happened (with respect to the test grades) and that she would stand by me.

To cut a long story short, things worsened between RC and us, as she felt left out of the threesome. CL and myself avoided the other classmates for lunch as we didn't care about wasting time clarifying useless gossips. Unfortunately, RC took her unhappiness to our project group dynamics. She continued to declare that she only wanted to pass, but insisted that projects must be done with all inclusive contents her way (including stuff that are irrelevant), because she and some other team-mates feel that it is the way to get good grades. She lobbied other team-mates to her side, which fractured the team into 3 vs 2, and 2 neutral persons. Near the final week of presentations, RC and her lobbyists called for a showdown meeting -- which obviously did not turn out well. They felt truly offended when I told them angrily in response to their personal attacks that, "You don't have to like the people you work with. You just have to be professional. It's nothing personal."

Things didn't get better at our 1st hospital clinical with RC, CL and myself posted back to our sponsoring hospital. I remember snapping at her for not being a team-player. RC told my other classmates that I was a bully. I was pretty much excluded from most outside-school social events organized by some classmates. Initially they invited CL to the events too, telling her to come without me. The first time CL told me about the invitation, I encouraged her to join the others and not be excluded from the rest of the class because of me. CL told me that she would stand by me because she did not appreciate the exclusion attitude (i.e. social bullying by RC and gang) and she felt that I was not in the wrong. I thanked CL for her support and belief in me. I told her that she did not have to tell me about such invitations in future, I didn't care if I was excluded from the social events since I have a busy enough life as it was (juggling serving my IT contracts and full-time school). [Note: I would attend if invited just to "give face", but I was kind of glad not to be invited.]

I accept that I share the blame for things spiralling to such a bad state, and I could certainly do better in my EQ. Nevertheless, I can deal with the fact that I had tried my best under that relational aggression situation (where a bully claims to be the victim).


Case 2 of 3 for note 2

2Note: Here's case 2 of 3 details of my bullying new people while nursing in Singapore. Again this involved a classmate during my Accelerated Diploma in Nursing days.

Case 2: It was the 2nd semester. We had formed groups by drawing lots and some minor swapping. My group consisted of CL, LN, PL, JS, YB, of which CL and YB were from my 1st semester group. Once again I was arrowed to be the group leader.
Note: Each time, I didn't asked for the leadership position. I even asked each team-mate, if he/she would like to lead and I would support him/her. But I kenna again (i.e. I was appointed again). In fact, even now in my current GNIE class, I am the de-facto leader of the sub-group and the clinical group. That's why I try to hold my temper and suck it up when I see minor annoyances, because I recognize from my Singapore nursing school experience that if anyone in the group started bitching, it would break the group rapport.
LN was rumoured from previous semester to be a parasitic team-member. Frankly I didn't give a hoot considering that the gossip network had it that I was a bully. Given my reputation of the class bully, PL and JS were very wary of me in the beginning. On our first major project together, when PL challenged my draft of our group presentation (since I was tasked with doing that), I casually replied, "Do you have an alternative suggestion?" To her credit, she did have an excellent alternative, which I took up immediately. From then on, JS and PL slowly changed their opinion of me.
Another side-track: A little background from my university (Computer Science) days. We had Operating Systems tutorial under Professor Y in our final year. By then, I had a reputation amongst my classmates for having the guts to ask questions and being able to answer questions (despite falling asleep during lectures). Prof Y answers questions by asking counter-questions. My classmates who had questions didn't dare to ask him because they didn't want to be dumbstruck when he counter-questioned them. Thus, they would get me to ask him questions on their behalf (which I gladly did, since I didn't revise and was interested to know the answer too). As the tutorial discussions proceeded with Prof Y, I would jot down notes on his explanations. After class, a few classmates, who passed me their questions in the first place, would ask me if I had understood what Prof Y said, and got me to explain it to them again. I would share my notes with my classmates who asked. The group that wanted my notes grew bigger and bigger. I'm not sure but I think at one point almost the whole tutorial class photocopied my notes. When the results were out, I am sure that there are some who did better than me at Operating Systems, but I am happy for them because they put in the effort to overcome their challenges. That's what I believe in. Friendly competition with one's peers (i.e. support each other so that everyone does their best), instead of adversary competition against one's peers (i.e. dragging each other down by withholding information). I think it is in the Information Technology culture to be collaborative by nature.
As with my university days, I would lend my tutorial notes to my classmates who asked for it. LN photocopied my notes for the 1st test. He claimed that it had helped him, and requested for my notes again when the 2nd test came around, to which I agreed. 

However, JS and PL were by then pissed off with LN for his parasitic behaviour in our project work -- he claims he didn't know how to do research, wanted us to do the research, then he said he is not good with powerpoint and didn't do his presentation slides (I ended up picking the slack), and finally could not even present simple topics well (strangely for someone supposedly from sales), wanted us to write his presentation script for him word-for-word (which I did in exasperation). The final straw that got JS and PL's goat was that LN thinks of himself as very capable and demanded to present the "meat" of a project even when he couldn't manage the introductions and conclusions well. Frankly, I didn't care and was willing to let him present the "meat", since I know that we would pass overall as a group because PL and JS were strong players and all the other team-mates worked well together collaboratively. Finally, one day PL and JS overheard LN demanding for my study notes and pulled me aside. They advised me to stop helping LN and that I am not really helping him because he is not facing his weaknesses with my help. They told me to start off by not lending LN my notes, even if I had previously agreed to.

LN was furious. He went to the lecturer JC and lodged a complaint against me, JS and PL, especially me. He claimed that we deliberately sabotage his grades by not allowing him to present the "meat" of our group projects. He also told the lecturer JC that I had promised to lend him my study notes earlier and I am setting him up for failure by not fulfilling my previous promise. I was called in for questioning by JC, who in the end asked me, "Why must you lend him your lecture notes? They are yours."

I was tongue-tied. I did not know how to explain the collaborative-IT culture that I came from to my lecturer JC. I felt frustrated and burned out by the bickering from my 1st semester and being accused once again of being a bully. Honestly I felt that while I have a right not to lend LN my notes, I didn't feel good about going back on my words and previous agreement with him. Since my lecturer JC had instructed me not to share my notes with LN and I didn't want to upset my preciously gained rapport with JS and PL, I chose break my agreement and did not lend LN my notes.

LN retaliated. He shot emails to everyone in the class, including YB, but excluding JS, PL, CL and me about how we were bullying him. So there, that's my 2nd bullying situation.

As a blessing in disguise, JS and PL personally experienced how it felt to be maligned by the gossip network. They fought against the gossips and advised me to clear my name too, but I told them that I was too tired to do so. One year down the road, while waiting for the other team-mates to arrive at the meeting, JS and PL told me that they had to keep defending me throughout the past year because some classmates kept saying nasty things about me behind my back. I told them that I didn't want to know about the gossips -- click here and read the "自扫门前雪 [Sweep one's own doorway of snow]" section for an example. They asked me why I didn't defend myself and clarify with others about what actually happened. I told them honestly that if people wanted to be swayed by hearsay rather than to get to know me personally, then it's their loss, not mine.


Case 3 of 3 for note 2

2Note: Here's case 3 of 3 details of my bullying new people while nursing in Singapore. 

I was working as an RN in a Singapore hospital for around 1 year by then. For some reasons, my hospital decided to host students on career/work exposure. Note: These are not nursing students but students in pre-university (i.e. academic preparatory courses) who were visiting to get a glimpse of the healthcare industry. 

The first time they visited my ward in Nov-2009, I stayed an extra 1 hour on my personal time to show these students around. In 2010, when a different batch came visiting during our morning shift, we already had our new rooms opened and the staff were badly overloaded at work. The students clustered around the nurses station, generally ignored by the staff. Finally when the Nurse Manager returned to the ward, she assigned each student to tag along with a staff, claiming that these students can help us with our workload. I seriously questioned if the NM understood our legal liabilities. Nevertheless, she was the boss, I had no choice but to suck-it-up. In retaliation for being overworked and now having the additional work of showing this newbie around, I put on a grouchy face and practically ignored the student attached to me. Kudos to him, he was patient and quietly followed & observed me as I moved down the corridor with my medication trolley, administering medications. I guess maybe he was as much forced into the situation as I am.

Finally, I relented and started explaining bits here-and-there to him. I thought, "What the heck! If I ended up being late, I am going to blame the NM for any delay in medication and the shift handover report." Since I had to nebulize a co-operative child who had supportive parents, I introduced the student to the patient's parents and asked for their permission for the student's participation in the patient's care. I guided the student as he mixed the medications, dispensing it into the mask, administer the nebulizer. I gave him instructions on how to know when the nebulization is finished and what to do when done, and left him with the patient. Guiding him took longer than doing it myself, but he did help me save a few minutes as he stood with the patient for the nebulization to be completed while I proceeded with the next medication administration. When he came out of the patient's room, he was all smiles. I think it made his day that he got to handle medications while his peers who were assigned to the staff on supportive roles only got to do the runners job.

So there, I would admit that I was a bitch to that student initially. I am not proud of myself for being a bitch to an unfortunate innocent person. In mitigation, I plea that I was already overloaded with work, and the students are not like my new RN colleagues who could and would take over workload from me if I trained them; and neither were they nursing students on clinical attachment who would join the profession and be my peers eventually.



On my journey home after my extended shift on Monday, I decided that I was too stressed and not making any sense (even to myself). Thus I decided that I must go for a swim to de-stress. I swam 20 lengths of a competition pool, roughly 1km of swimming. After swimming, I don't know why, but my former nursing buddy CL's advice (when I was facing relational aggression, see cases 1 & 2 of note 2 above) came back to me. She had said,
"WD, you don't have to care what they do or say about you. These people need you more than you need them. Without them, you can still succeed. Without you, they can't. [That is, get their goal of A's in group projects/presentations.]" 
Actually, when my nursing buddy told me that, I was kind of skeptical because I felt that it was important to be a good team-player, and be seen as one. As it turned out, those folks had deep grudges to bear, my buddy & I ended up working with a different (fabulous) bunch of group-mates from the 2nd semester onwards. Suddenly, I miss my original (Accelerated Diploma in Nursing) nursing buddy.


[Addendum on 14-Jun-2012]

AP told me today that she documented in her anecdotal notes that she should have communicated better with the RN involved such that the medication delay may be avoided and/or would not be worsened. I told her that we learn along the way and asked her how did our CI respond to her anecdotal notes. She showed me the CI's reply and I told her that it means that she will be alright - just learn from the experience and move on.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

GNIE: Calling out a bully

A friend laughs and cries with you. A friend gives you support, but also calls you out when you veer off-course. 2 days ago, on Thursday, I had the unenviable task of doing the 4th duty of a friend. 


During Nursing Theory class, lecturer H decided to collect suggestions from the class for the semester 1 GNIE students who would be heading for their first clinical attachment under the GNIE course. Suggestions flowed on as lecturer H moved her focus from one side of the class to another. 

When lecturer H came to my corner of class, LP suggested that students should help each other instead of focusing on finishing their own task. 

My PRC classmate PY countered immediately that everyone has his/her own tasks to be done; if the person cannot even finish his/her own task, then he/she will delay everyone; so it is important to get one's tasks done before helping others.
[I took it that PY meant that helping others should be circumstantial, because personally I do not find PY selfish. That said, my interactions with her is limited to classroom activities.] 
PY then added that people should not talk about others behind their back; instead they should bring the issue out to the person involved [and talk openly and directly about it]. Lecturer H gave a quick "Aha!" look, and then she just noted down the comments but did not add any remarks.
Some background notes: LP, IJ, PY and a few other classmates were in the same clinical group. LP and IJ have LPN experience in Canadian hospitals, so when it came to clinical, they were the stronger players. Unfortunately, LP and IJ seem to have issue with one person or another from their clinical group at various points in time. The Filipinos in my sub-group would hear them complain every now-and-then over our lunch together.
I am in another clinical group with AP, IT, JC, PT and others. As AP, IT, JC, PT and myself are part of the Filipino lunch group, we have heard of the conflict in LP's clinical group. When we met up for clinical, AP, IT and I would remark to each other that we were glad that our clinical group is made of comparatively agreeable people and is rather cohesive. Even our current semester's Clinical Instructor remarked that we are an unusually cohesive group who helped each other out and waited for everyone to go for break together. 
Personally, I have minor issues with someone within my clinical group, but I try to close one eye and keep the matter confidential (between AP and myself) because I treasure the camaraderie within the group and I don't want to spoil it. I believe everyone in the group holds a similar approach.
When it came to IJ's turn, he gave some other suggestions. But knowing his issue with his CI, I recognized it as a veiled criticism of the CI. In the pursuing discussion, it became more and more obvious that IJ and LP were complaining about their CI. PT, another Filipino classmate who is in my clinical group, actually added oil to the fire by saying, "Ya, K is like that..."

Again lecturer H just noted down the comments but did not add any remarks. At the end of the feedback collection, lecturer H remarked, "That's all? I thought you guys are going to give me some tips on how to tackle the clinical instructors."
Frankly, I don't know if she was joking or being sarcastic, given that the other sub-group (in my class) had complained against lecturer H before. Nevertheless, I was disappointed that lecturer H did not use her position of influence to offer a neutralizing perspective. Yes, I recognize that as adult learners we are responsible for our interpersonal interactions, but I thought that a comment from her "position of authority" as a lecturer to counter the veiled attack would have helped, even something simple like, "You guys are adult students. You should know how to resolve conflicts amongst yourselves." But it did not happen, the fire was not doused.

We then had a short break. I took the chance tackle IJ's issue with his current semester's CI, KH. Both IJ and LP had been complaining about KH for the past few weeks. 

My clinical group had KH as our CI during the previous semester. My group had no major issues with KH as the CI. We were grateful for her support and flexibility. In fact, at the end of our clinical, my group gave KH a "Thank You" card and we celebrated together at a Japanese restaurant (she wanted to pay her share, but we insisted on treating her).

So I asked IJ what his issue with KH was. He said, "She is always here-and-there" [i.e. he could not find her]. To which I replied, "It depends on what you expect from the CI". I told him that my group like KH precisely because whenever a student requested for her check/guidance/support, she would follow the student to the client's bedside. I added (someone from the other sub-group told me) that another clinical group was unhappy in the previous semester because they (allegedly) had a CI who declined to supervise students by the patients' bedside, always sitting at nurses station instead. I followed with asking IJ, "Have you raised this issue with KH?" To which he replied negative. LP joined in and said that there was no point (in raising the issue) since they had only a few of weeks of clinical left, and they would rather just "suck it up". I told them that, if they were upset enough to complain in class, then they should raise the issue with KH and talk with her face-to-face.

Next I asked IJ if he had any other issue with KH. Then he said that she was picking on himself and LP. I asked, "What happened?" IJ said that he and LP were only a few minutes late one morning, but KH "talked" to them about being late right after that. IJ then cited that they were technically speaking not late since the report has not started yet. Further, IJ claimed that other students who were later than them were not given the "talk". Thus, KH was not being fair in handling the students.

I was a little puzzled but I decided to share based on my groups' experience with KH. First of, I asked, "Did you agree on a specific reporting time?" IJ replied negative. I told IJ that my group had established an agreement to report by 7:20am (actually, it slowly shifted to 7:25am by the clock at the clinical unit). Nevertheless, KH had been flexible with the late comers so long as we inform her (e.g. send a text message or verbal message from our classmates) of our situation. [Indeed, a few in my clinical group, including me, had done so in the previous semester, without any issue.] Thus I suggested that IJ bring up the matter directly with KH and to establish a benchmark for punctuality. IJ started wriggling his way out of establishing a reporting time with KH, to which I countered with an explanation on the need for a benchmark for an objective approach to Performance Appraisal.
In my 1st IT job, my company provided excellent training, including many in-house training videos. One of the most beneficial ones I watched was on Performance Appraisal. Basically for Performance Appraisal to be done objectively, one has to establish the KPI (Key Performance Indicators), how to measure the KPIs and the (measurable) standard to meet for each grade. Then the employee and supervisor each makes their evaluation of the employee's performance based on the agreed standards. Finally, the 2 meet together to discuss the grades, and for any discrepancies, to explore the causes and negotiate the grade. 
I shared how using that tool greatly benefited me in one situation. We were mostly young (under 30's) folks in the team at that time, including my supervisor J then. Another female colleague CML had some issues with me over a male colleague that she had fancied. I was in the development team reporting to J, while CML was in the testing team reporting to KT. CML spread negative comments and gossips about me, especially to J who was infatuated with CML back then. When it came to performance evaluation, J initially rated me 4-5 on all KPIs and gave me an overall grade of 4+ (on a scale of 1-5, 1 being "outstanding" and 5 being "needs improvement"). At each KPI, all J had was CML's comments and feedback, and his personal opinions to support his evaluation. I was aware that J, as a newly promoted supervisor, was keen to be seen as fair. Thus, I challenged J to specify the SMART objectives as per the company's Performance Appraisal approach for each KPI. He took several hours to do it, but when he was done, I showed him the evidence that I met all his criteria cited. At the end, my KPIs were mostly rated 1-2 (I think there was only 1-2 items with a rating of 3, meaning "Met Expectations") and the overall grade was 1+. We were originally scheduled for a 1-hour review of my performance appraisal, but it took 8 hours instead. We finished at 12-midnight. I might not have liked J personally any better, but at least he earned some respect from me for putting in the effort to be objective.
With that example, I re-iterated how important and effective it is to establish objective standards. IJ wriggled again. To which I cut straight to the chase and asked, "Look, you want to pass the course, right? So why don't you establish measurable objectives upon which you would be evaluated?" At which point, IJ went tangential and started accusing/labelling KH, "But she is...". To which I replied, "It doesn't matter". The cycle of "But she is..." and "It doesn't matter" repeated for several rounds. Until IJ finally gave up.
I wonder if IJ realized that I was using the "Broken Record" method of assertive communication on him. We learnt that in GNIE semester 1.
I concluded our discussion with a re-iterated suggestion that IJ and LP speak openly and directly to KH about their issues with her instead. I recognized at that point that IJ and LP were, for some reason, unwilling to acknowledge their parts in causing the issues and role in resolving the issues. I told IJ that it was not good of them to bring up their issues with their CI indirectly during class (with another lecturer/instructor) instead of speaking directly to KH, the CI involved. IJ tried to excuse/justify his actions, stating that he would never mention names.


After lunch on Thursday, we had nursing lab with the lab instructor JNT. IJ and LP started asking JNT questions about what should and should not be done. E.g. "Do nurses percuss the abdomen?" E.g. "Should we auscultate the abdomen before or after palpation?"

On their own, the questions seem like innocent clarifications of nursing skills. However, knowing the background issues driving their questions and from the tone of their questions, I recognized that they were seeking another avenue to complain about CI KH.

JNT answered both questions in their favour but did not stop at that. She deduced from the follow-up commentary from IJ and LP that the questions were related to conflicting instructions from a CI. JNT started asking questions and making statements that were critical of the conflicting instructions. Then she started playing the "student advocate" role* and asking the class if they had any issues at clinical. IJ and LP immediately took the bait and started giving negative comments about their CI. There was an awkward pause. Then IJ asked, "Come on guys, back me up!" and another classmate from his clinical group spoke in agreement. JNT then fished for more and more details. Finally, she asked, "Who is your instructor?"

At which point, IJ hesitated for a split second and then slowly replied, "KH."

JNT then said that she would raise the issues on their behalf to the person in-charge of clinical posting. That person is away at the moment, but JNT promised that she will follow-up with her. In addition, JNT said that she will also raise the issues with the Course Co-ordinator L. After some other side matters, JNT declared a break.
[*Note: This afternoon when AP came to bunk over at my place, we discussed what happened on Thursday. Both of us find JNT's behaviour beyond what is appropriate of a "student advocate". We both think that there is more to JNT's motive than simply being a neutral advocate. It is not the first time that JNT had been "fishing" for "tinder". It first happened when there was a complaint against lecture H and she asked "How did your theory class go?" The week after the incident against lecturer H, she fished for complaints about clinical. This Thursday, her nose sniffed blood in the air from IJ and LP.
AP said that it seems that JNT has something at the back of her mind but AP could not figure out what it is. I gave a guess that based on the 1st semester's lab lecturer LA's information, it is hard to get a regular/permanent job from the university. Even LA, who had been getting good performance reviews for years of contract work with the university, is still not offered a permanent position. Maybe JNT's behaviour is symptomatic of workplace politicking.]
At which point, while a few classmates were streaming out of the classroom for the break, I turned over to IJ and LP and said sternly (in the presence of the other Filipino classmates and JNT), "You know what? You guys should seriously have a face-to-face talk with KH if the issues are bothering you that much. What you're doing is [a form of] bullying. Why do you go around complaining and complaining (to others) instead of talking to KH directly?"

IJ and LP both looked surprised, as if it never occurred to them that their actions/behaviour were those of bullies. LP then gave excuses that, "If we complain (to her), she would fail us?"

To which I thought, "Obviously they do not trust on the professionalism of their CI. It's a sad reflection of their own mindset." Nevertheless, I replied, "You can document that you have made a complaint to her, then she cannot fail you because of that."

IJ or LP (I cannot recall which) asked, "You mean like in the anecdotal notes?"

I said, "No. Like document down for the record."

The above excuses and counter-argument went several rounds. Finally, they kept quiet, but I could tell that they were not ready to hold their peace yet. Anyway, break was over soon enough and lab lesson continued.

At the end of the day, I didn't feel like talking to anyone, especially not the Filipino gang, so I headed out quickly.

On the bus journey home, I decided that I have to reinforce my point. Thus, I sent IJ a text message.
"Hi IJ, I seriously think that you and LP should consider raising your issues directly with KH. As your friend I am ashamed of your actions this afternoon. Gossiping about someone behind their back is bullying. Remember how angry you and LP were when the other group complained about H to L behind her back? Is there any difference between that and what you're doing now? I hope for and expect more maturity from the both of you. WD"
About 1/2 hour later, I got a reply from IJ.
":) thank u for making me aware of that [WD].. i hope itll (sic) all work out for me. it is a stressful situation, so im thankful for your guidance in this process. sorry for having acted inappropriately, it will not happen again."

When I logon to Facebook late on Thursday night, I saw that IJ felt vindicated by JNT's replies to his questions earlier that day and posted the following on FB (around the time when I sent him that text message about bullying).

IJ: RNs don't percuss. LoL

WD [replying late that night] : Such regulations are specific to legislative zones. In UK, they do. In Singapore, some with modern training do. I was trained in Health Assessment by someone who ever worked in UK.

WD: Which is also why we need the GNIE programme. Standardization of RN scope, skills, roles & responsibility in the Canadian context.
[Note: I grabbed the opportunity to drumroll about the benefits of the GNIE program. IJ and LP have been and are still complaining about the need for GNIE and stirring others' frustration over the program. In fact, both of them were so frustrated about the perceived "discrimination against foreign nurses" that they were trying to write on that theme for their Sociology assignment.]

Today (Saturday), AP told me that over dinner on Friday, she also talked to IJ about not going overboard in his complains. AP suggested to IJ to "suck it up" and show the CI some respect if he wanted to pass. [Note: AP did this independently, she didn't realize that I had sent IJ a text message on the matter.] IJ seemed a little less defiant this time, asking AP if it was that bad. AP said to him that his words do hurt others sometimes. Then according to AP, unlike IJ's usual habit, he did not complain about a ginger slice in his drink at the Japanese restaurant.

Getting LP to turnaround would be more difficult. AP and I agreed that IJ is a smart person and LP, on the other hand, wasn't quite so. To quote AP, LP's behaviour is that of a typical Filipino - complaining and gossiping about issues. I would reckon that without IJ's chorus, LP is unlikely to push her agenda further because LP has enough street-smarts to know that she is unlikely to succeed without IJ's brains.

Neither AP nor I know how things will play out. We both hope that things will work out for IJ, LP and their clinical group. Once again, we concluded that we are blessed to be in our clinical group which seems to have no major issues. *Fingers crossed* and *knocking on wood*.


[Addendum on 14-Jun-2012]

IJ informed me today that he had spoken with his Clinical Instructor KH and set-up some agreed benchmark standards for the clinical performance evaluation. Apparently KH agreed that she should have done that right at the beginning of their clinical rotation. IJ told me that he was concerned that he only had 2 weeks left on clinical to meet the standards (and wondered if he might be penalized for the earlier weeks' variances from the post-dated standards). I re-assured him that from my clinical group's experience with KH, she is unlikely to fail him just because they had not set-up those standards until this late in the clinical rotation. I advised him to just do his best to meet those agreed standards over the final weeks of clinical and he would probably be alright.