When one thinks of the word “healthcare”, doctors and nurses immediately come to mind. While they are an indispensable part of the healthcare system, the diverse industry is full of opportunities for those who desire to make a difference in the lives of others. AHPs such as clinical psychologists, radiographers, medical social workers and therapists all play an integral role in treating, rehabilitating and caring for patients as well.
To address the needs of an ageing population and the rise of chronic diseases, the demand for healthcare professionals is growing. To that end, the Healthcare Scholarship is always on the lookout for talented and passionate individuals who can play a pivotal role in developing Singapore’s healthcare sector for generations to come.
We talk to one such individual, Lim Sheng An, to find out more about what one can expect from a career in healthcare. Currently a Radiation Therapist at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, he tells us all about his profession and the sense of fulfillment he derives from caring for his patients.
What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in the healthcare sector?
Lim Sheng An: I have always been fascinated by science and found myself torn between biomedical sciences and healthcare when it came to choosing a career. It took many conversations with my parents and older cousins, before I finally arrived at my decision of joining the healthcare sector.
Ultimately, I chose it because I love to work with people and pursuing a healthcare career would provide me with many opportunities to interact with others. I also felt that the job satisfaction derived would be greater than that from other industries as healthcare is a meaningful career.
Tell us about your roles and responsibilities at work today.
Sheng An: I perform preparatory work for patients before they start their radiation treatment. This consists of a Computed Tomography scan with the patient in the required treatment position, which must be reproducible and comfortable for the patient. This is important to maintain the accuracy of the treatment at the highest standard.
At times, I lend a listening ear to patients. These are usually people who are going through a tough journey at that point of their lives. By showing care for their well-being and genuinely paying attention to their grievances, I help them de-stress and hopefully help make things easier for them.
Lim Sheng An
Radiation Therapist, National Cancer Centre Singapore
What are some little-known facts surrounding your role as a Radiation Therapist?
Sheng An: It is actually very safe to work as a radiation therapist – we do not receive excessive doses of radiation from our work environment. Radiation treatment occurs in specially built bunkers and the machinery is controlled by therapists from the outside the bunker. There are also many safety protocols in place to ensure that we do not get exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.
Furthermore, it is not at all depressing to work in my department. There are many patients who continue to live their lives to the fullest or who win their battles with cancer. In fact, I know of cancer patients who still hold down full-time jobs during the period of their radiation treatment. Their display of courage and perseverance in the face of adversity often reaffirms my decision to become a radiation therapist.
What are some challenges you face as a Radiation Therapist?
Sheng An: When caring for palliative patients, it can be a challenge to manage their expectations – some of them expect a cure, but in reality, treatment can only help soothe their end-of-life journey. With them, I am more careful with my words and avoid giving them any sense of false hope. I also ask questions to help them reflect on the purpose of the treatment, which the doctors have already informed them about. This helps them form a more realistic expectation of the treatment.
Tell us about the most memorable thing about your job.
Sheng An: The fighting spirit that patients display often leaves a lasting impression on me. It keeps me going and feeds the passion for my job. In the face of death, patients reflect on their lives and appreciate the little things that count. They sometimes offer valuable insights on life which can be very enlightening.
How else does SingHealth support your development?
Sheng An: I was given the chance to participate in an overseas community involvement project which involved students from different healthcare disciplines. The opportunity to mingle and bond with them broadened my perspective of how patients are managed as they transit through the healthcare system.
What kind of qualities should aspiring Radiation Therapists possess?
Sheng An: Radiation therapists must be good team players, as you will often be working in multidisciplinary teams. Good teamwork will enhance the team’s effectiveness and morale, and ultimately, improve patients’ treatment experience. Radiation therapist should also be meticulous. As radiation therapy is non-reversible, any errors are permanent. In order to avoid causing harm to our patients, it is crucial to be thorough and precise with our work.
Most importantly, you will need to have good interpersonal and communication skills. Effective communication helps us build trust and positive relationships with patients, which in turn helps patients better understand and comply with the treatment.