Mr Kenneth Goh’s reason for becoming a physiotherapist might be a little more personal than most.
When he was 19, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament after an accident while serving national service. As a result, he had to undergo reconstructive surgery, and subsequently, physiotherapy sessions.
His personal rehabilitation process marked his first encounter with physiotherapy. As he attended his regular sessions, he witnessed how the physiotherapists helped their patients get back on their feet, climb stairs and play sports.
Inspired by their dedication, patience, enthusiasm and compassion, he realised that he wanted to be part of this community.
“It seemed like a win-win situation,” says Mr Goh. “These people were earning a living while impacting people’s lives positively.”
The 28-year-old’s passion made him a frontrunner for the Ministry of Health Holdings (MOHH) Health Science Overseas Scholarship (now the Healthcare Merit Award), which saw him heading to the University of Queensland for a fouryear Bachelor in Physiotherapy (Honours).
Apart from being one of the top schools in a country already known for its stellar standards of health science education, the University’s prestigious physiotherapy programme also made it the obvious choice for Mr Goh.
There, he was exposed to a number of unique challenges. One of his placements in Brisbane had him placed in rural areas, where he attended to several quad biking-related injuries.
Another training placement had him making house visits to patients who were not mobile enough to go down to treatment centres.
On top of these educational experiences, Mr Goh also enjoyed the autonomy of living abroad, exploring Brisbane and beyond while taking road trips with his friends.
“The friendships I forged in Queensland are among the strongest I’ve had, something that I treasure a lot,” he says.
Pieces of a puzzle
After returning to Singapore, Mr Goh went through several rotations in the orthopaedic, pulmonary and geriatric departments at Singapore General Hospital.
But he eventually returned to the department that had first inspired him to take up the profession — musculoskeletal physiotherapy — which intrigues him the most out of all the other areas of physiotherapy.
He likens the process of looking into a patient’s symptoms to a detective investigating a crime scene.
“Patients with the same condition present with a different set of beliefs, stressors in life, expectations, goals and comorbidities,” says Mr Goh. “This makes my job both interesting and challenging.”
But the biggest challenge is getting patients to adhere to their treatment plan. They often become frustrated with their lack of perceived progress and opt to stop treatment before they are fully recovered, which can be detrimental in the long run.
Still, some moments make his efforts worthwhile. One of his fondest memories on the job so far was having a patient pass him a handwritten note, saying that she was cancelling her next appointment, and all subsequent sessions.
His heart sank when he heard that, he recalls, as he thought that she had given up. But when he unfolded the note and read it, he discovered that she was doing so because she could finally walk again, unfettered by pain.
“It’s very rewarding knowing that my job knowledge has helped my patients to regain their function and independence,” he says, smiling.