Yishun Community Hospital occupational therapist is sustaining the human connection during a pandemic

Photo Caption: Due to manpower adjustments at Yishun Community Hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic, occupational therapist Mah Looi Han had the opportunity to experience a range of disciplines, from geriatrics to neurology

By Kenneth SZ Goh 

Occupational therapy centres on helping people engage in meaningful everyday activities with their loved ones. Much of the rehabilitative work requires face-to-face interaction with patients. 

The pandemic brought about a new set of challenges for Yishun Community Hospital occupational therapist Mah Looi Han, 25. During the circuit breaker period last year, her team had limited opportunities to meet patients and switched the focus of rehabilitation sessions to keeping patients engaged at home. 

Through caregiver training sessions, Ms Mah ensured that patients had the physical and social resources to be meaningfully occupied at home. 

She also shared practical tips on how to improvise using household items for upper limb strength training and set up everyday routines. With visitor restrictions, she produced training videos for family members and encouraged patients and their caregivers to keep active.  

She says: “It made me consider if more could be done to help patients return home faster, receive targeted interventions, and to be more empowered to manage their health in their homes with better outcomes.”

The circuit breaker period was also a test of Ms Mah’s adaptability. While her work role did not change, she was rotated across various departments due to manpower adjustments to support Covid-19 operations. In a span of just eight months, she was exposed to a range of disciplines such as geriatrics, neurology and orthopaedics. 


Need for adaptability

Describing herself as a “shock absorber”, she says: “I had to work with different sets of knowledge and people, and comply with new restrictions every few weeks. 

“It required much adaptability to cope with constant changes while keeping our services consistent to minimise consequences to patients.” 

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of encouraging the elderly to have meaningful activities in their daily lives. She recalls how some had been admitted to the hospital due to falls and mental health issues as a result of the sudden disruption to their regular routines. 

Ms Mah first learnt about allied healthcare through career talks organised by her junior college.

Initially, her parents wanted her to enrol in a university, but she was resolute in her goal to pursue a Diploma in Occupational Therapy at Nanyang Polytechnic. In 2014, she received the MOH Holdings’ Healthcare Merit Award, which sponsored her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy studies at Glasgow Caledonian University in the United Kingdom. 

These days, Ms Mah’s parents are proud of their daughter’s achievements and passion for her job. She says: “I loved sharing about my studies and work at the dining table and I think the joy and passion that I exuded convinced my parents that I was truly happy where I am. 

“To this day, it is still encouraging to hear my mother say ‘Yes, it is truly good work that you are doing’.” 

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