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Her goal is to help patients recover through therapeutic interventions

Photo Caption: Ms Mah wanted to become a physiotherapist so she could help patients regain their full range of motion through exercise regimens.

By Sanjay Surana

While most young people are undecided about what they want to do with their lives, Ms Mah Chia Ling knew very early on, at 18 years old, that she wanted to be a physiotherapist. 

This was after she had participated in a five-day Healthcare Attachment Programme (HAP) run by MOH Holdings (MOHH), where she had the opportunity to observe the work of healthcare professionals on the ground.

The eye-opening experience not only gave her a glimpse into the life of a physiotherapist, but she was inspired by “a meaningful helping profession that worked with the vulnerable.”

The now 24-year-old says: “It seemed as if the physiotherapists magically knew exactly what was going on with a patient and how to help them with the appropriate exercises and advice. Through the HAP attachment, I saw the person I wanted to become and knew that this was the profession I wanted to be a part of.”

That was why she applied to Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) – Singapore’s University of Applied Learning – where she pursued a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Physiotherapy.

Knowing that by the end of her course, she would be handling real patients whose recovery depended on her, Ms Mah approached her studies with greater focus and determination. She saw her acceptance into the university as an opportunity to work hard and was motivated to do the best she could.

Her good grades meant that she became eligible for the Healthcare Merit Award (Mid-Term). At the beginning of her third year in 2018, she applied for the scholarship offered by MOHH and was awarded the scholarship a few months later. 


Customising therapy plans for patients

Currently, as a physiotherapist at Alexandra Hospital, Ms Mah’s day is never dull. She assesses her patients’ needs and works out a customised therapy plan for each one. To help them restore their original physical functions, she meticulously implements therapeutic interventions while working closely with doctors, nurses and occupational therapists.

Even as she coordinates with a broad network of healthcare professionals, she is, in a sense, her own leader, tasked with creating and realising appropriate regimens for her patients. As Singapore’s population ages, her work in palliative and geriatric care will become increasingly important and necessary.

“Both areas of care are humbling places to be,” she says. “Caring for these patients requires you to consider the patient’s current trajectory as well as their present and future needs while planning around their preferences.”

With the influx of patients during the pandemic, Ms Mah has learnt to manage her time better and prioritise cases so that her patients are able to get the required care with minimal disruptions. 

“The COVID-19 virus and its accompanying symptoms are new to all of us. I have to take the initiative to understand and learn more about the disease. For example, it is important to provide therapy of suitable intensity to those who are recovering from Covid-19.” 

Based on her experience in healthcare, Mah believes others who have an interest in the sector should apply for the scholarship. 

“The healthcare sector is full of opportunities for those who want to find a career that is meaningful and inspiring. Healthcare scholars can also look forward to the various career development pathways provided by MOHH.”

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