Healing Hands

An Occupational Therapist shares with us how a love for health sciences and stumbling upon an allied health advertisement on television led her on a life-changing journey with JurongHealth.

By Winifred Tan

As the adage goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That’s precisely what Sri Marni advocates and puts into practice daily.

The petite and bubbly 26-year-old is an Occupational Therapist at Alexandra Hospital (AH), which is managed by Jurong Health Services (JurongHealth), the new public healthcare cluster aimed at better serving the needs of patients in the West. Here, Sri Marni puts her clinical skills and knowledge to good use towards rehabilitating patients and helping them lead more active and independent lives.

Taking an afternoon off from her busy schedule, she shows us the joy of helping others, the nifty equipment in her ‘playroom’, and how a short television advertisement changed her life forever.

Allied interests
Sri Marni: “I hate Physics!” (Laughs)

Interestingly enough, the self-avowed “Biology and Chemistry lover” was originally accepted into an Engineering course after her GCE ‘A’ Level results were announced. But doubts started to surface when she realised the overwhelming number of Engineering students graduating from both degree and diploma courses each year. That was when she saw a television advertisement calling for Allied Health professionals.

Sri Marni: “It sparked my interest because I saw that a lot of Human Sciences was involved in their course of work. After conducting more research online, I narrowed my options down to Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy. Choosing Occupational Therapy in the end was an ideal choice because it married my love of Science with my fascination with Art. Occupational Therapy involves, in addition to medical intervention, artistic activities such as craftwork and music. It fits my interests to a T.”

Clocking in
With this goal in mind, Sri Marni enrolled in the three-year Diploma course in Occupational Therapy at Nanyang Polytechnic before completing her fourth year at La Trobe University, Melbourne.

After completing her degree, she joined the pioneering team of JurongHealth professionals who are strengthening their base in AH while the two new healthcare institutions, the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and the Jurong Community Hospital, are being built at Jurong.

Sri Marni: “What I like most about JurongHealth is the dynamic working culture. As we are managing both AH and building our new hospitals which will be ready in 2014, we are currently recruiting new graduates as well as experienced healthcare professionals to come onboard our team. I believe that with this integration, every individual will contribute a positive quality towards creating a unique healthcare system of our own.”

A helping hand
Occupational Therapy can be sub-divided into different specialities, such as Hands, Neurology, Paediatrics, Mental Health and Geriatrics. The only similarity between these different specialties is that she will be using activities with specific goals to help her patients reduce or overcome effects of disabilities, such that they are able to perform tasks essential to productive living (e.g. self-care, daily living and work).

As a general Occupational Therapist in an acute hospital setting, Sri Marni will get the opportunity to be rotated through all the different fields of specialisation.

Sri Marni: “I’m currently posted to the Orthopaedics Surgery ward, where I help restore post-surgical patients back to their premorbid status as much as possible. You would be surprised at how difficult simple tasks can become when you’re weak and in pain! For instance, patients with hip fractures often have difficulty wearing their pants after surgery. Hence I teach them different techniques to overcome their difficulties; or in the event that they are still dependent, educate their caregivers on how to provide assistance. Prior to this I was in the Hands department where I learnt splinting, wound dressing, and other techniques such as sand therapy. It was a challenging posting because hands are my nemesis and I have to learn new skills such as wound care and scar management. These skills that are practised post-hand surgeries are actually outside the scope of Occupational Therapy.”

However, Sri Marni is happy to report that she relished the experience and is even considering Hands as her future area of specialisation when she pursues her Master’s degree.

Healthcare evolved
Come November, Sri Marni will be rotated to Geriatrics, another specialisation she’s interested in as she enjoys working with elderly patients suffering from dementia. Judging by the smile on her face as she deftly guides a wheelchair-bound uncle around the Hands department, it is clear she derives a genuine pleasure from helping others in need.

Sri Marni: “The best part about Occupational Therapy is the satisfaction you gain at the end of the day. It’s very rewarding seeing the happy faces of bed-bound patients when they regain their mobility and of caregivers when they can finally heave a sigh of relief. Like the vision of JurongHealth, it is also my personal wish that we will continue to transform healthcare by bringing it to every home and empowering every member of the community to look after his or her well-being.”

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