Presently working in Changi General Hospital (CGH) as an Occupational Therapist, better known as OT, MOH Holdings (MOHH) scholar Sharifah Shahidah assesses her patients' ability to perform their activities of daily living (ADL) independently and safely. She also plans interventions that are tailored to their needs. This may include coming up with cognitive rehabilitation plans for them or guiding them with assistive devices.
What sparked your interest in healthcare, and in particular occupational therapy?
The medical dramas and talk shows I watched as a child inspired me to work in the healthcare sector. A TV show that featured an OT using unconventional methods such as horse-riding and swimming to treat patients sparked my interest and I reached out to people who were studying OT to find out more about the profession.
What are some misconceptions surrounding occupational therapy?
Due to the name of our profession, some will mistake us for recruiters or head hunters who help others find jobs! They also think of us as people who merely prepare activities for ward patients when they see us doing cognitive retraining such as facilitating memory games. Some assume we tend to pharmacy counters or install grab bars in homes, which are misconceptions.
What are some challenges of an OT?
The most challenging aspect of our job is communicating with stressed families and caregivers of patients. Caregivers face immense pressure especially when their loved ones require more assistance with their daily activities. I lend a listening ear to caregivers so that they can voice their frustrations and be more receptive to our help.
Share with us about a couple of meaningful episodes at work.
One of my elderly patients came in with a pneumonic episode and a few other medical issues which required a stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Together with the multi-disciplinary team, we worked together to help him get back on his feet. I was part of his recovery journey and he is now living at home with a maid, engaging in his activities again and walking with a mobility aid.
What are some vital qualities an OT should possess?
I think the most important qualities are empathy and passion for serving others. The job of a healthcare professional is not easy, and you will get burnt out if you lack the passion to help others.
Being non-judgmental is also vital in our line of work. You will meet patients from all walks of life, and you have to remain open-minded when communicating with and treating them.
What advice would you have for those who are exploring their scholarship options?
Keep an open mind! Do your research, talk to people, take up job shadowing opportunities and attend open houses to find out more about each profession before making a decision. Don't be daunted by the bond that comes with the scholarship. Regard it as job security, because getting a scholarship opens many windows of opportunities for you.