Out of the many things she’s learnt in her career as a social worker, one particular lesson stands out to Ms Teo Jie Ting — that it is okay
to ask for help.
A recipient of MOH Holdings’ Healthcare Merit Award, she graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2018 with a Bachelor of Social Services with Honours in Social Work, bolstered by a history of volunteer work with various organisations.
Nonetheless, when she first started out in the Medical Social Services team at Ng Teng FongGeneral Hospital last year, she felt like she could do nothing right.
Adjusting to working life was made even harder by her lack of familiarity with the hospital systems, and not a single day passed without a scolding from a patient or one of their family members for her inexperience. She often doubted if she was suited to be a social worker.
But every time she felt like giving up, her mind flitted back to the incident that inspired her to be a social worker in the first place.
When she was working with latchkey children, one particular situation stood out to her.
One of the women she was working with wanted to find employment to support her family, but could not do so because she had to remain
at home to take care of her elderly mother.
When Ms Teo mentioned this to her superior, she was told that a social worker might be able to help. Knowing little about social
work, she started reading up on the field.
“I realised that I wanted to make helping others my job,” she says. “That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in social work.”
The initial adjustment period was tough, she admits. But it was her colleagues that made all the difference.
As is appropriate for a profession tasked with providing support, medical social workers at the hospital are privy to a great deal of support themselves.
Noticing her difficulty — and having been in a similar place before — Ms Teo’s colleagues rallied around her, providing her with timely advice, emotional support and even clarifications on complex medical terms.
Support does not come solely from her peers — it also comes from her superiors.
Her supervisor in the Medical Social Services team holds regular check-in sessions for her and her colleagues to reflect on their performance,
as well as to receive advice on how to approach their future patients.
These sessions are also a place for Ms Teo to candidly share her thoughts and feelings about the work she does.
She says: “My colleagues are more than just colleagues. They’re also friends who are always checking in on me, making sure that I am coping well. Plus, having a nurturing supervisor to guide me is also very important in helping me grow professionally.”
But an unexpected source of support comes from the very people she helps in her day-today life.
“Over time, I’ve come to realise how small my problems are compared to my clients’,” she says. “Seeing their strength and resilience motivates me whenever I deal with my own difficulties.”