It's about communication

We spend an afternoon with JurongHealth’s aspiring Speech Therapist and come away with more than we expected.

By Kevin Lim

Wan Xin’s youthful looks, petite size, and delightfully excited tone have us doing a double take.

Is this the 26-year-old Master of Science in Speech and Language Pathology student we were supposed to meet?

A Beacon of Sunshine
Indeed she is, and she greets us with a warm smile that instantly puts us in a good mood – something we soon learn is at the heart of her decision to become a Speech Therapist.

As it turns out, Wan Xin didn’t always aspire to be a Speech Therapist. Her first job was in the field of clinical research at a hospital. There, she would often work with many elderly stroke patients who had lost their ability to speak intelligibly.

Seeing their distress at losing their ability to communicate moved her, and also left her feeling powerless. As a fresh graduate with no skills in performing interventions, she didn’t know what more she could do to ease their pain besides a few comforting words.

A Peek into Her Future
It was then, that she caught her first glimpse of speech therapists at work.

She marvelled at the way these “medical angels” turned lives around through their work. Just a few short months ago, a couple of patients she recognised were depressed at not being understood by anyone. Now, they were speaking effectively, and were able to communicate and share wonderful experiences with their loves ones once again.

Wan Xin believes there is no greater cause than simply being “a blessing to others” – to make others smile. She now knew where her future lay, and set out to become a Speech Therapist herself.

First Step: Attain a Scholarship
With a clear goal in sight, Wan Xin researched the options available to her, and applied for scholarships that would allow her to become a Speech Therapist.

A scholarship was crucial as it meant being able to study in a Master’s degree programme which otherwise would have been costly to take up.

Not one to sugarcoat reality, Wan Xin tells us that the road to her scholarship was not easy, as she encountered several rejections during interviews along the way.

“Being rejected is never easy. It makes you second-guess yourself, to wonder why you failed,” she reveals.

However, she didn’t let these failures bring her down. “It’s imperative to keep your head up, set your focus right, and persevere! Setbacks are a part of the interview process, and life itself. If you really want something, you have to keep going till you succeed, and never let one rejection affect your next interview.”

This never-say-die attitude will be of immense help when she finally begins her duties as a Speech Therapist. Wan Xin reminds us that medical professionals face challenging situations while dealing with patients on a daily basis, and it is through perseverance and determination that these patients are eventually helped, and have their lives changed for the better.

Back to School
Returning to school – after she thought she was finally done with it – took a bit of getting used to, but also taught her the ability to adapt to environments quickly (a skill she’s sure will help her in her career as a Speech Therapist).

Her scholarship experience, she tells us, has been great. Her coursemates, being aspiring healthcare professionals themselves, have values aligned with hers.

“There is no competition for first place, and no race for better grades. Instead, everyone wants the same thing – to be a better Speech Therapist for their patients, and to improve the lives of others. We’re a community of future professionals helping each other succeed, and this can only be good for the industry,” Wan Xin says with a smile.

Clarifying Speech Therapy
As our conversation continues, we start to get a sense that speech therapy isn’t just about helping patients speak.

“It’s about communication,” Wan Xin clarifies.

“What patients really need is a way for other people to understand them. In many cases, a Speech Therapist addresses this by helping patients regain their ability to speak at a reasonably proficient level. At other times, patients can be taught to communicate through writing. Families are brought into therapy sessions as well, so they can play an important role in the rehabilitation process.”

Wan Xin tells us that at the end of the day, what a good Speech Therapist wants, is to help a patient regain their health (which includes their ability to use their throats for other basic functions such as swallowing), communicate with friends and family, and live fulfilling lives.

So what are essential qualities for aspiring Speech Therapists?

In Wan Xin’s words, “Patience, empathy, and most importantly, a genuine desire to help people.”

Closing Notes
Wan Xin closes our chat this afternoon with a short note to students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.

“Healthcare is a constantly evolving field that is challenging, exciting and immensely rewarding. If you enjoy interacting with people, and really want to make a difference, YOU CAN,” she enthuses.

Aspiring speech therapists can visit http://www.juronghealth.com.sg/careers/scholarships_sponsorships.asp to check out the array of scholarships available.

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