A Heart For Others

Each day, we go about our daily lives participating in a myriad of activities. However, for others, accomplishing these activities does not come so easily. We speak to Chua Kok Yeow, Senior Occupational Therapist at JurongHealth, to find out more about what he does to help those in need and what keeps him going.

By Yvette Tan

Amongst a maze of towering electrical machines and neatly lined rows of orthopaedic equipment sits Chua Kok Yeow. He settles comfortably into a nearby chair, evidently at ease with his familiar surroundings.

Decked out in an ordinary blue shirt and faded brown pants, Kok Yeow is anything but. Though seemingly quiet, Kok Yeow quickly launches into the conversation, exuding confidence with each word.

“My original plan was really to be a police officer. But when I attended a career exhibition, I discovered healthcare and the rest as they say, is history,” Kok Yeow says with a laugh.

“What I was sure of from a young age was that I wanted to be in a job that could help others. What I do now may not be helping others in the same way a police officer does, but it does help others and impact their lives. After more than ten years in the field, I’ve grown to love my job and what I do every day.”

A holistic profession

With the infectious energy of a teenager, Kok Yeow barely pauses for breath to reply when I ask him why he decided to take the path of an Occupational Therapist.

“I love to interact with people and I really think this job suits me very well. Occupational therapy is a very holistic profession as we help people to facilitate their general well being – their physical and mental health,” he shares.

“I want to be able to help the person as a whole. In this sense, occupational therapy helps me to achieve that.”

Making a difference

A job in occupational therapy means Kok Yeow is actively involved in helping patients go about with the daily aspects of their lives. From teaching them to dress themselves to training them to tie a shoelace, Kok Yeow’s job is to help patients regain independence in their daily lives.

He believes that mastering these actions, though small, does make a difference in improving an individual’s life and leads them one step ahead on the road to recovery.

“I still remember my days in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) where I was first promoted to Senior Occupational Therapist. Each year, we celebrate an event called Occupational Therapy Day. In that particular year, I was supposed to train a choir for the event,” he recalls.

“The choir was made up of chronic patients who have been staying at IMH for decades. Many of these patients have no family. Many have also to an extent, lost some of their social skills and even normal speech. We trained once weekly for about a year before their performance. In the end, they managed to perform at the National Library in front of a live audience, which was especially memorable to me.”

Kok Yeow breaks into a wide grin, clearly basking in the memory of the event. In his voice, the underlying hint of pride and passion clearly shines through.

Keeping the fire burning

Despite having spent more than 10 years in the healthcare industry, Kok Yeow possesses the same unbridled enthusiasm he had when he first entered the field.

“After working for so long, what keeps me motivated is the knowledge that you’ve helped sick or handicapped patients regain their independence. Seeing patients leave the hospital feeling better or learning to find some way to compromise for their handicap to regain their quality of life is a satisfaction in itself,” Kok Yeow says proudly.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is easy to get caught up in the tangled web of work and responsibilities. Kok Yeow shares that life in the hospital is not only all work and no play.

A healthy balance

“While it is definitely our priority to take care of our patients, I think at the end of the day, we have to take some time out and ensure that our mental well being is taken care of before we can help others overcome their illnesses,” Kok Yeow shares.

“At the hospital, we try to maintain work life balance. We have a staff welfare committee that organises various activities such as sports and gardening. Recently, we had a Family Day outing at Vivo City Golden Village. Staff and their families were treated to free movie shows and the kids were given free popcorn. It was a great way to catch up with both family and friends.”

Future plans

Kok Yeow pauses for a while, deep in thought, as I asked him what his future aims are and what he hopes to bring to the healthcare industry.

“I think no matter where I am in the future, the most important thing to bear in mind is to have a continuous learning attitude. Especially in occupational therapy where you’re dealing with the complex human body, we cannot assume that we know it all. There is always something else to learn, always room for improvement,” he says.

“Healthcare starts when the patient is well and not when the patient has entered the hospital. At Jurong Health Services (JurongHealth), our mission is to work towards helping and empowering the community to stay well outside of the hospital,” Kok Yeow adds.

“At the end of the day, healthcare is a cyclical job. I believe that whatever I give to the community now is a reflection of what I will receive from others in future. So in what we do, we have to try our best to do a good job and put our whole heart into it. In another forty to fifty years down the road, I may become a patient receiving treatment from JurongHealth!” Kok Yeow laughs heartily.

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