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Communications expert

Keen to work in the healthcare industry, Ms Celeste Chew opted for the field of speech therapy.

“It piqued my interest as it enables people with certain impairments to participate in social activities such as communicating and eating, both of which are crucial,” she says.

Ms Chew pursued a Bachelor of Speech Sciences at University College London in the United Kingdom on the Health Science and Nursing Scholarship, graduating with upper second class honours in 2015.

The scholarship has been renamed the Healthcare Merit Award and is given by MOH Holdings, the holding company for Singapore’s public healthcare institutions.

Her tuition fees were covered and she was given a monthly allowance.

She also benefited from an additional flight home for an attachment during her studies and reimbursements for workshop and courses related to speech therapy.

Different perspectives

“I had the privilege to experience life through the perspectives of different cultures, and the friends I’ve made from all over the world made my experience fun and interesting,” says Ms Chew.

While studying, she also put her skills to use during a three-month stint at University Hospital Lewisham, one of several placements required for her course.

Her interest in helping others overcome communication problems even led her to learn sign language while at university, even though it is not a necessary skill for a speech therapist.

One year into her career at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital — both managed by Jurong Health Services (JurongHealth) — she is gaining the practical experience she needs to be a good allied health professional.

Scholars posted to Jurong-Health spend the first few years of their bond honing their skills specific to their professions, after which they are offered opportunities to develop more advanced skills, including further studies.

“From the start, we have been told that we can pursue several career paths in the company, such as clinical, research and administration.

“We have the opportunity to express our interests and develop relevant skills in those directions,” she says.

Ms Chew does not see the sixyear bond she has to serve as an impediment.

She says: “Being bonded meant I had a job waiting for me when I graduated. Also, Jurong- Health offers many opportunities to grow as an allied health professional.”

A rewarding experience

A typical day sees her attending to patients, assessing their needs and conducting speech therapy sessions with them.

Working with families is often required to train caregivers to take care of patients after their discharge.

Job satisfaction comes from making a difference in her patients’ lives.

Once, she was invited to join a patient and her family for the patient’s first meal in three weeks at the visitor’s lounge.

Ms Chew recalls her joy when the patient finally had the feeding tube removed so she could eat and drink normally.

To keep the department running smoothly, she takes on some administrative duties such as scheduling fortnightly in-service training for her department.

Staff at the hospital also get to participate in projects. She helped to develop a water swallow test and trained nurses to administer it to patients.

To give the speech therapists a comprehensive understanding of their job, JurongHealth rotates them every six months to work in outpatient, acute inpatient and community hospital settings.

Their responsibilities remain the same, but they care for different types of patients.

“Such rotations are important as they ensure I am able to practise holistically as a speech therapist. My skill sets will then not be limited to a single area.

“This exposure allows me to discover which area of speciality I am interested in so that I can pursue it further,” says Ms Chew.

Healthcare professionals often work in teams, and having a strong relationship with one another improves their performance.

The hospital regularly organises staff welfare events such as movie nights to bring employees together.

Ms Chew’s team even went for an escape room adventure and worked together to solve puzzles to escape from the locked room.

“The work culture at Jurong- Health is great. I love how the different disciplines get to work closely together. I feel supported by my peers as well as my bosses,” she says.