Helping patients on a difficult journey

MEDICAL social worker Amy Tan Si Ying was on the verge of giving up her chosen field of studies when fate intervened to steer her back on course.

Half-way through her undergraduate programme at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Ms Tan wondered if social work was really what she wanted to pursue as a career.

At that time, her father fell ill and was in a critical condition for some time. Her experience in dealing with her father’s illness changed her mind.

Says the 25-year-old: “It helped me to really understand and connect with the emotions and experiences that patients and their families go through.

“I found meaning in being able to journey with patients and their families through their difficult  times.”

That incident, together with her positive experience while interning at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in 2013, strengthened her resolve to become a medical social worker.

“As I was determined to work as a medical social worker, I looked for scholarships that would help me to enter this field,” recalls Ms Tan, who eventually applied for the Mid-term Healthcare Scholarship offered by MOH Holdings (MOHH) when she was in her third year of studies at NUS.

All healthcare scholarships are centrally awarded and managed by MOHH on behalf of the Singapore public healthcare sector.

The scholarship covers tuition fees and maintenance allowances from the point of award onwards.

In addition, scholars receive a back payment of tuition fees from their first year of study. Local scholars have to serve a four-year bond.

“I was keen to work in the healthcare industry and the scholarship gave me an opportunity to do that,” explains Ms Tan, adding that the award relieved her of the study loan burden.

She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences (social work).

Pillar Of Support

In her current job at the Care and Counselling Clinic at TTSH, Ms Tan works with patients suffering from renal failure.

She works closely with a multidisciplinary team to provide holistic care for patients and their families by addressing their psychosocial needs.

Ms Tan feels that she plays a pivotal role in helping patients and families navigate the healthcare system, which can be difficult for those who are not familiar with it.

Moreover, she finds that every case is different and every patient has his own personal struggles.

“I find the most joy and satisfaction in speaking to patients and finding out more about them and their hopes and dreams,” she says.

Working in multidisciplinary teams in the hospital means Ms Tan gets the opportunity to learn from those in other professions.

She appreciates their opinions in their areas of specialties to enable her team to provide more holistic care for patients.

But her job is not without challenges.

“The acute hospital is a very fast-paced environment. There is often pressure and expectation to complete certain tasks in a specified time frame. There is often also a need to manage different stakeholders’ expectations,” she says.

On The Front Line

Being in the healthcare industry provides Ms Tan with immense job satisfaction.

“I hope to be able to contribute to developing policies that would eventually lead to better care for all our patients,” she says.

While she looks forward to being involved in healthcare policy planning in the future, she wants to gain more experience on the ground, to help her better understand the intricate workings of Singapore’s healthcare system.

For those who aspire to follow her career path, her advice is to be prepared for the challenge.

She says: “When I first started, I found the learning curve really steep and it was a little overwhelming at first.

“However, once you get the hang of things, you will start to find more meaning and satisfaction in the job. Tough times don’t last, tough people do!”