Photo Credit to Au Yong Hui Min
By Bryte Asteri
When Ms Au Yong Hui Min decided at the age of 18 that she wanted to become a respiratory therapist, the world then had yet to experience the coronavirus pandemic.
Now 24, she attends to those stricken by Covid-19 at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. The disease starves a body of oxygen and causes breathlessness, so she helps such patients to breathe by administering various procedures and therapies.
“With Covid-19, our work is definitely crucial,” she says. “The ability to breathe is so innate that we often take this simple but vital process for granted.”
Ms Au Yong shares that she has always been fascinated by the human body and recalls being drawn to public healthcare from the time she was in primary school, when she saw her grandfather being admitted to the hospital multiple times for stroke.
Once, when he was in the intensive care unit (ICU), she noticed him needing mechanical ventilation. That was the first time she was exposed to a breathing machine.
“I realised there was something that could take control of a person’s breathing,” she recalls.
She was struck by the dedication of the healthcare professionals towards her grandfather’s recovery and their attentiveness towards her family’s emotional needs.
“Thinking back, they inspired me to want to be like them,” she says.
Discovering respiratory therapy
Upon completing her A levels, Ms Au Yong knew she desired a career that would allow her to interact with and help others.
After visiting the Healthcare Scholarships Fair organised by MOH Holdings, she found herself “intrigued” by the job scope of respiratory therapists because of the “unpredictable critical care environment that they worked in”.
Subsequently, she signed up for a job shadowing opportunity with KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She learnt “so much” from the respiratory therapist there that she emerged from that stint knowing this was precisely what she wanted to pursue.
Ms Au Yong then applied for the Healthcare Merit Award, which was awarded to her in 2015.
The scholarship meant a lot to her, being the only fully funded scholarship that would allow her to study respiratory therapy – a degree that could only be pursued overseas.
“I’m incredibly thankful for the scholarship, because my family would not have been able to finance my studies otherwise,” she says.
“The scholarship allowed me to focus on my studies, without financial stress.”
Motivated to give her best
For her undergraduate studies, Ms Au Yong chose the University of Missouri in the United States, because of its well-known respiratory therapy programme.
As part of her curriculum, she learnt how to assist doctors in procedures including intubation, bronchoscopy, and transporting mechanically ventilated patients; earned certifications in basic and advanced cardiac life support; studied about neonatal resuscitation and paediatric critical care, and also went through various clinical placements.
Last year, she graduated with first-class honours from the university’s Bachelor of Health Science Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences programme.
She has since been assigned to Woodlands Health Campus but is currently posted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as a respiratory therapist till the former opens in 2022.
Apart from Covid-19 patients, Ms Au Yong also attends to the critically ill in the hospital’s ICU, and is part of the resuscitation team that attends to emergencies.
“There is so much to learn. You will develop both technical and interpersonal skills. You will be more attuned to the needs of the community. You will grow into a better person, with voice that’s a little louder, skin a little thicker, brains a lot fuller, but most importantly, heart a lot softer.”
What keeps her motivated?
“Seeing patients get better, and knowing that everything I do is for them and their loved ones,” she says.
Healthcare Merit Award
Singapore citizen or permanent resident who is willing to take up Singapore citizenship; achieve outstanding A-level results (offered at least 10 academic units), diploma with merit/distinction or equivalent qualifications (e.g. International Baccalaureate (IB) or NUS high school diploma); good co-curricular activities record and strong leadership qualities; passion for serving in the public healthcare sector; good communication skills
VALUE OF AWARD:
Tuition and compulsory fees; monthly allowances; pre-study allowance; return economy airfare and clinical placement expense (for overseas study only); sponsorship for approved developmental programmes; commencement award; distinction award (for scholars who graduate with at least Second Class (Upper) Honours or equivalent)
Four years (local); six years (overseas)
Terms and conditions apply. Visit www.healthcarescholarships.sg for more information.