Pursuing her dreams her way
A love for working with people and curiosity about medicine led Ong Ah See to a lifelong career in healthcare. Having decided at a younger age that she was not academically inclined, she opted for a supporting role and is now a Senior Patient Care Assistant (PCA) at Changi General Hospital’s (CGH) Emergency Department (ED).
The 59-year-old mother of four grown children thrives on helping people, from assisting patients undergoing electrocardiographs (ECGs) to being a Mandarin translator for non-Mandarin-speaking doctors. Conducting her duties in the fast-paced environment of the ED keeps her busy and fulfilled. “Once I get to work, I will get busy helping here and there, and before I know it, the shift has ended,” shared Ah See.
Naturally, tensions can run high in the ED, such as when anxiety grips patients or their next-of-kin. This is when the support of the healthcare team, especially her Nurse Manager, keeps her going. Describing the ED team as a close-knit family, Ah See said, “We understand each other well and we comfort one another when we have had a bad day. I also focus on things that make me happy, such as planning to cook for my family and colleagues. At the end of the day, when patients walk out of the ED feeling much better, it makes my day.”
There is joy in working in a positive environment, and Ah See likes that she can nurture her passion for learning at her workplace. Whenever she gets the chance, she asks doctors to explain medical terms, medication or even procedures, so that she has a better understanding of what is going on and can step up to help.
The cheerful lady also enjoys travelling, playing badminton and singing. Her dedication and approach to having a great work-life balance could be the secret to her winning several awards at work, including the Singapore Health Quality Service Award!
Taking pride in the details
Behind every successful surgery is a dedicated team that makes sure everything goes smoothly. At the Theatre Sterile Supply Unit (TSSU) of the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), Saraswathi oversees the decontamination and sterilisation of sets and instruments used in surgery. For her, every step in this process is important. Ensuring that the instruments are free from defects and breakages keeps patients safe. Overseeing the sterilisation process maintains quality assurance. Being on top of things enables her to meet special and urgent requests when they arise.
Before joining SNEC as an Operating Theatre Assistant, Saraswathi worked for an ophthalmic surgeon in India. When she joined the TSSU, she had to learn every step of the decontamination and sterilisation process, with support from a preceptor. Today, Saraswathi is herself a preceptor paying it forward by sharing her knowledge and experience with new staff during their clinical attachment in TSSU.
For the 50-year-old mother of two, choosing a career in healthcare was a winning move. Not only has it given her opportunities to learn and develop professionally, it has also allowed her to make a positive impact on the lives of patients and their families.
What matters most to Saraswathi is having team members who are supportive and open-minded. “Having a supportive team at work means we often help one another to complete daily tasks and overcome challenges. Together, we take pride in providing good-quality service for our surgeons and, ultimately, our patients,” said Saraswathi.
A career change led to her true calling
When Chia Gek Luang was retrenched from her job at a printing company 20 years ago, she enrolled in a Patient Care Assistant course with NTUC and embarked on a new career. However, she almost called it quits after two months on the job.
Attending to patients’ activities of daily living was a 180-degree change from her previous job. Dealing with the body waste of bedridden patients was one thing, but encountering patients who spewed vulgarities at her was demoralising.
Encouraged by her ward supervisor, Gek Luang pressed on, but the real turning point came when she received a ‘thank you’ card from the family of a patient. The patient’s will to live was strong despite his terminal illness, and this inspired Gek Luang to not give up. Journeying with this cancer patient made her realise she had a meaningful role to play.
As a Patient Experience Associate at SingHealth Community Hospitals (SCH), Gek Luang assists the healthcare team in providing basic caregiving activities to patients to ensure their comfort and safety, and improve their hospital experience. Her cheerful personality evokes a sense of warmth as she goes about helping patients. The 64-year-old is also proficient in various dialects, allowing her to bridge communication gaps between elderly patients and their healthcare team, who may not be proficient in local dialects or languages.
Gek Luang is quick to add that interacting with patients from diverse backgrounds has given her a fresh perspective on life. She recalled an incident when a patient suddenly removed her catheter, causing urine to splash everywhere. Rather than getting angry and jumping to the conclusion that the patient did it on purpose, Gek Luang found herself empathising with the patient’s frustration, and was able to calmly communicate with the patient and gain her cooperation eventually. “I’ve learnt a lot from being with my patients, to appreciate small things in life and let unimportant things go,” Gek Luang shared. “Being able to experience patients’ life journey and creating memorable moments with them keeps me motivated to continue in this line of work.”
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