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A heart to serve

Medical social worker Lee Jiajin sees her job as a meaningful way to bring about positive social change.

The 27-year-old supports patients and their families at Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) through psychosocial interventions such as counselling, and helps those who have trouble paying their hospital bills to apply for financial assistance.

She focuses specially on diabetic patients and at-risk single mothers.

“Being a medical social worker has been an eye-opening experience. I get to share life’s joys and sorrows with my patients and their families, which makes me aware of the responsibility I have in providing them with quality care,” she says.

Willing hands
Ms Lee, who was on a Health Science Scholarship — now known as a Healthcare Merit Scholarship — from the Ministry of Health Holdings (MOHH), graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor in Social Sciences with Honours (Social Work) in 2017. She has been working at SKH since then.

But her desire to help others began in earnest in 2010, when she was studying at Singapore Polytechnic.

As a volunteer with the Leo Club — a community service club — she was involved in various outreach events, including a trip to Penang, Malaysia in 2011 to visit children’s homes and nursing homes for the elderly. She also served as the club’s president from 2011 to 2012.

“Volunteering enabled me to focus on others and their struggles, and to make a difference in people’s lives. It is a blessing to care and spread joy,” she says.

When applying for university, Ms Lee wanted to do something that would allow her to continue helping the disadvantaged in society. The Health Science Scholarship seemed like a good fit, and she successfully applied for it.

Getting a scholarship helped her to focus on her studies without having to worry about finances. She also had a chance to go on a two-week cross-cultural exchange to China in 2016, fully sponsored by her scholarship.

Overcoming challenges with grace
While Ms Lee’s work at SKH can be draining due to the emotionally distressed people she routinely interacts with, she has developed ways to cope. She believes in positive reframing and offering empathy, reminding herself that her patients are going through trying times and may be difficult to deal with as a result.

She knows that she has to look after her wellbeing too, and recharges her batteries regularly with some “me- time”. She also draws strength from friendships at work.

“This keeps work stress at bay and prevents compassion fatigue,” she says.

She appreciates the chance to serve her patients and looks forward to doing an even better job in the next few years.

“I’m grateful to be part of a profession that allows me to empower, advocate for, motivate and encourage my patients,” she says.