The healthcare industry is driven by passion, patience and perseverance – all towards the greater cause of benefiting society. Two youths share how they discovered their calling and what spurs them on.
By Tan Yan Shuo
Tan Wan Ru and Wang Yu Yan are vivacious young women who have much in common. Both hailed from Temasek Junior College, were members of the Leo Club, and volunteered for the Community Outreach Programme for the Elderly, which arranges for students to visit the homes of needy elderly.
More importantly, both are SingHealth scholars who have found their calling in geriatric care. And like others in the healthcare industry, they are continually driven by passion, patience, and perseverance.
As a volunteer, Wan Ru gained first-hand experience of geriatric care – a service which became increasingly meaningful to her over time.
“When I first visited her, she was able to cope with day-to-day tasks, so initially we just helped her with her housework,” she recalls of the old lady whom she used to help. “But subsequently, she started to lose her memory and her vision started to deteriorate. She couldn’t see telephone numbers, so we wrote the numbers bigger. Eventually, she had difficulty walking, so instead of just cleaning her house, we brought her out for medical appointments in her wheelchair.”
Likewise, Yu Yan discovered her calling through weeks of volunteer work, during which the old folks became like family to her. “In the process of helping and looking after the elderly, I discovered my innate passion to care for them,” she enthuses.
Determined to align their future careers with their passions, Wan Ru and Yu Yan applied for and were awarded the SingHealth scholarship.
Under the Health Science Scholarship, Wan Ru studied Occupational Therapy in Nanyang Polytechnic and underwent a degree conversion programme in the University of Sydney, Australia. Meanwhile, armed with a Nursing Scholarship, Yu Yan pursued a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Innovation through teamwork
Now an Occupational Therapist at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), one of the institutions under SingHealth, Wan Ru interacts with patients on a daily basis, helping them grow in their individual capacities and independence. To describe her role, she says thoughtfully, “We train patients in relearning daily tasks such as showering, cooking and changing their clothes so as to empower them to be fully functional on their own.”
Because patients sometimes suffer from a wide spectrum of illnesses, there is never a one-size-fits-all solution available. Hence, occupational therapists often face the challenge of crafting innovative solutions for different patients. “They could be patients with multiple medical conditions such as diabetes, fractured hips, or a history of stroke. It is challenging for me, because there is no standard protocol,” she relates.
Fortunately, SGH has a strong tradition of mentorship and also believes in multi-disciplinary healthcare teams on whose expertise Wan Ru can readily tap. “The culture is such that the seniors will spend time mentoring and guiding us. And doctors, nurses and allied health professionals work closely together as partners to provide holistic care for every patient. In this way, the patient receives the best possible treatment for his or her condition.”
Soul of healthcare
Despite being a fresh graduate, Yu Yan is no greenhorn to the healthcare industry, having already gone through six attachments with various hospitals. “We get to observe the nurses at work, and we realise it’s actually quite different from what we learn in textbooks, because everybody’s condition is different, and they may even have a combination of conditions, which require you to think quickly,” she says.
In fact, the nursing profession in Singapore has evolved to become more impactful and less “mundane”. While nurses used to solely perform housekeeping duties, they now oversee patient care. And instead of having one specific duty each, they are now grouped into teams, assigned to specific patients, and have a range of responsibilities.
“If medicine is the heart of healthcare, then nursing is the soul,” Yu Yan says philosophically. “Nurses are there with the patients 24/7. Doctors may plan out the treatment, but nurses are the ones who follow it through.”
Today, occupational therapists and nurses are treated as equal partners to doctors and have plenty of opportunities for career progression. After gaining sufficient experience as a staff nurse, Yu Yan can choose to enter the clinical, research, or education career tracks. Meanwhile, Wan Ru looks forward to sharpening her skills and expertise, and hopes to specialise in geriatrics and pediatrics. She also hopes to participate in research projects to make positive changes to the healthcare scene.
Making a difference
For Wan Ru and Yu Yan, their patients’ well-being always comes first – this is the well from which they draw buckets of job satisfaction. They concur that the best part of their work is being able to make a direct impact on the people they encounter.
Yu Yan, who was on attachment at Changi General Hospital, another institution under SingHealth, says, “I remember this elderly patient with incessant requests who would specifically ask for me whenever he needed something, and I would try my best to attend to his needs. My nurse-mentor told me that he kept calling out for me over a weekend when I was not on duty, and I felt touched that I had made a difference to him.”
Despite their passion for their work, Wan Ru and Yu Yan stress that a career in healthcare is not for everyone. Asked what it takes to be a good healthcare practitioner, Yu Yan readily replies, “Passion, patience and perseverance. During the course, our lecturers kept telling us, ‘You must have the heart to be in nursing.’ I knew that from the onset, and that is also precisely why I chose nursing as a career as I am passionate about helping patients.”
With the same conviction, Wan Ru adds, “To be a good Occupational Therapist, you have to be passionate about helping people, and willing to provide a listening ear. Our patients should be at the heart of all we do.”