Serene Lim’s introduction to occupational therapy intrigued her. Her sister, who was working as a Physiotherapist, had broached the idea of occupational therapy as a career, thinking it would be something she would enjoy. Reading up on the profession and the opportunity to shadow her sister’s Occupational Therapy colleagues for a few days piqued her interest further, and convinced her that it could be a career she would love.
Her Journey in Occupational Therapy
As a student, Serene was attached to Changi General Hospital (CGH) for a 7-week placement, where she worked with patients under her supervisor’s guidance, and experienced first-hand the hospital’s efforts to ensure continuity of care and help patients transit from hospital to home in the community. More than that, the support and collaborative efforts of the multi-disciplinary care team in caring for patients convinced her that CGH was the right place to grow roots and develop her career. The additional bonus for her is that the hospital is only a 10-minute walk from home.
A day in the life of an Occupational Therapist
A typical day for Serene begins with checking patient lists and prioritising cases to review at the hospital’s geriatric wards. Most of her elderly patients have existing medical conditions such as dementia, and face difficulties in performing daily activities. For new patients, she performs an initial assessment to determine their level of function and gather information about the activities that were important to them prior to their hospitalisation. With that understanding, she tailors her therapy sessions to help patients regain their abilities and provides training to empower caregivers in assisting patients in their activities. She also conducts regular training sessions with partners from external organisations such as nursing homes and day care centres to equip them with the knowledge and experience to care for patients. But her work is not without its challenges.
"My role as an Occupational Therapist is part of a collaborative effort between our care team and patients and their caregivers. Through understanding their needs, we explore ways to care for our patients and meet these needs through rehabilitation and therapy. Because of the fast-paced nature of the acute inpatient setting, we have a short period of time with patients in the hospital, and may not always be able to come up with tailored, practical, and sustainable solutions to help them manage at home. This is especially so with the elderly and patients with dementia, as they require additional care, support and time in rehabilitation to recover," she explained.
To overcome this, Serene makes an effort to have constant open communication with the CGH care team so that everyone is on the same page on the patients’ function and rehabilitation needs and therapy goals.
Still, she shares that it is a blessing to enjoy what she does for a living.
"I value the feeling of satisfaction that comes with enabling people to do what is important to them. This can even be as basic as being able to button a shirt or comb their hair! In an acute setting, I may not always get to see the full progress of a patient’s recovery, so it’s the little steps of improvement and positive interactions with patients and caregivers that encourage me," she shared.
A Word of Advice
"The key to thrive is to have an open mind and attitude to learn and go with the flow. The hospital is dynamic and fast-paced, so you need to develop self-management strategies to adapt to the nature of the job. More importantly, what matters is that we have a heart to care for others, and do the best that we can for them," she said.
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