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Carving out her niche

Allied health professional (AHP) Nurnazlyna Mohd Bahtiaraffandi, 25, chose to specialise in a niche area in the healthcare industry.

Supported by MOH Holdings’ Health Science Scholarship, now known as the Healthcare Merit Scholarship, she pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, achieving first class honours. MOH Holdings is the holding company of Singapore’s public healthcare clusters.

Prosthetics is a clinical discipline that deals with artificial limbs, known as prostheses for people with amputations. Orthotics deals with supportive devices or orthoses, for people with musculoskeletal weakness or neurological disorders.

“P&O is a very hands-on and engineering-based field, yet it requires the human touch,” she says. “It is a relatively uncommon field among the allied health professions, thereby making every prosthetist and orthotist unique and important members in Singapore’s healthcare industry,” she adds.

Immersion programmes 
Ms Nurnazlyna was new to Scottish culture when she first arrived in Glasgow but learnt to embrace it in her four years there. She admired the natural beauty of the country’s landscape and forged new friendships while learning to live independently.

Studies in P&O are only available overseas, and the scholarship helped Ms Nurnazlyna pursue her dreams unburdened by financial constrains. It covered the tuition fees, flights and provided a monthly stipend and expenses for settling down. During the course of her studies, she also had a two-month attachment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), which helped her understand how the P&O team operates.

Ms Nurnazlyna currently manages the inpatient and orthopaedic clinic at TTSH. She assesses patients for orthotic management, such as spinal, hip, knee and ankle bracing.

She reviews patients with prostheses in the wards should they require assessment of their socket fittings, and works with new amputees who may require prosthesis fitting. Occasionally she makes customised insoles for patients with foot wounds.

Job rotations 
AHPs have a well-defined career path, and can become senior AHPs, principal AHPs and senior principal AHPs. Ms Nurnazlyna has been at TTSH for over two years, and enjoys the company of her fellow healthcare workers. “My colleagues are easy to approach to discuss cases with and learn from one another,” she says.

She enjoys interacting with patients, and feels satisfied when they show their appreciation for the care provided. “I hope my career in TTSH will be impactful and beneficial to my patients,” she says.

Job rotations are common for allied health profession departments. Her department will soon be introducing inpatient and outpatient rotations so that the prosthetists and orthotists can gain insights from seeing both sides of patient care. The P&O department also serves external clinics.

Says Ms Nurnazlyna: “It is important to undergo such rotations to gain more exposure and experience in learning to manage various groups of patients and conditions.”

She enjoys the company of her co-workers. She went on a holiday to Bangkok organised by the union and enjoyed getting to know people working elsewhere in the hospital. She also attended a 10-session basic Mandarin language course by the hospital, to aid her interactions with Chinese- speaking patients. Learning together with other TTSH staff made it all the more fun.

Ms Nurnazlyna’s scholarship comes with a six-year bond. She sees it as an opportunity to build on her expertise and is grateful to be able to contribute back to society through her work in healthcare.

For those thinking of becoming AHPs and taking up MOH Holdings’ scholarships, she suggests that they identify which role they wish to build a career in. She says: “Don’t think twice! The scholarship itself is great. But do consider thoroughly on the choice of the profession you would like to take on”.