In the third article of this mini series, 'Class of 2020', we follow the stories of two graduates from the pioneer cohort of our Allied Health programmes. Being the first Allied Health graduates from an Autonomous University, many were called into action right after completing their studies in April 2020, as hospitals around Singapore faced manpower crunches due to the increased COVID-19 infections. Embodying the SIT-DNA of 'being grounded in the community', these graduates share how SIT's applied learning pedagogy and strong industry relevance made them ready for the deep end when the need arose.
Ang Xu Kai (Diagnostic Radiography) (Class of 2020)
Barely after completing his clinical placement at Philips Healthcare in April 2020, Xu Kai was asked by National University Hospital (which he was bonded to) if he could start work in May, a few days after concluding his undergraduate studies at SIT. Struggling to cope with the rising COVID-19 cases at the time, hospitals were very much in demand for radiographers, with suspect COVID-19 cases having had to undergo chest X-rays. Xu Kai was one of 52 newly-minted Diagnostic Radiography graduates from SIT who stepped up to help alleviate the manpower crunch.
"I was supposed to begin full-time employment towards the end of 2020, so when I got the request to start in May, I was surprised. At the same time, as clichéd as it sounds, I felt the calling to do my part to help curb the spread of COVID-19. I also felt ready, after going through four years of applied learning, both in the classroom and in the hospital setting," recalled Xu Kai.
Xu Kai was deployed to the 'dirty team' at NUH when he officially commenced work, at higher-risk areas of the hospital which treated and housed suspect COVID-19 cases at the time. The role also required him to man portable X-rays in Isolation Rooms for patients who were suspected to have COVID-19.
The fear and uncertainty of this new pandemic (at the time) did not deter Xu Kai. "To me, I didn't mind it at all as my job is to help the sick and those in need of care," said Xu Kai. "During my course of study at SIT and during my clinical attachments, the best practices and top standards of care were always advocated by our teachers and mentors, thus I felt equipped and had no problems adjusting to these heightened measures," he added.
The countless hours of clinical placements that he did (also at NUH) helped him adapt to his role as a radiographer and he could transit into full-time employment more seamlessly. "Modules like Anatomy and Physiology, as well as Pathophysiology and Pharmacology helped me understand clinical diagnoses. During my clinical placements, I acquired both technical and soft skills through experiential learning, complementing my theoretical knowledge, which helped make the transition to full-time employment easier," said Xu Kai.
Vinita Lalchand Sheri, SIT-TCD Physiotherapy (Class of 2020)
Vinita is only 25 but no stranger to adversity. Since she was 17, she has been helping to bring up her sister while balancing school and other needs, including caring for her parents and managing a decent social life.
Her tenacity and drive, together with her passion in physiotherapy earned her an MOHH Scholarship, which requires her to be bonded to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). Initially, she was supposed to enjoy a well-deserved break after four years in the intense SIT-TCD Physiotherapy undergraduate programme. However, she was asked if she could commence her employment in June, as TTSH needed as many hands on deck as possible to join in the fight against COVID-19.
"I was initially disappointed at the prospect of a shorter break before I began my lifelong career, but I also felt honoured to be able to contribute meaningfully during this outbreak that took the world by surprise," said Vinita.
Currently serving as a Geriatric Physiotherapist, Vinita felt she was able to transition seamlessly to her current role as she believed the curriculum that she underwent at SIT is exactly tailored to what the healthcare industry required.
She was glad to be exposed to varied techniques and methodologies, and also grateful for the knowledge imparted to her by her professors and adjunct faculty, both of whom she holds in high regard. "A/Prof Meredith Yeung, A/Prof Wee Seng Kwee, and A/Prof Benjamin Soon (Health and Social Sciences) played a large role in moulding our knowledge, skills, and passion for Physiotherapy while challenging us to remain up to date with current evidence-based practices to ensure we remained relevant and effective," added Vinita, "Ironically, we also learnt a lot of 'non-textbook' skills, which were very useful, like the importance of honing soft-skills, and being able to empathise with patients."
Vinita's career aspiration is to make a difference in the lives of her patients during difficult, vulnerable and challenging times. She understands that for her to do so, she needs to go beyond rehabilitation, and provide the emotional support and empathy to patients. She needs to empower her patients to see them leave the hospital in a better state than when they came in.
"Moving forward, I am gunning to pursue my Masters in Geriatric Physiotherapy, as I am passionate about helping older people age gracefully and with dignity."
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