National University Health system (NUHS)
Special Features | Healthcare

A Listening Ear
For Her Patients

Being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing frequent treatment is a trying time for patients and their families. Healthcare Scholar Carinne Ho tells us how she ensures a smooth treatment journey for all involved.

Cancer is a serious ailment that involves abnormal cell growth which can invade other parts of the body. Thankfully, an effective cancer treatment method is radiation therapy, where ionising radiation is utilised to kill malignant cells – typically over the course of several weeks.

Exposure to high levels of radiation can produce numerous undesirable side-effects such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss and skin problems. Radiation Therapists play a crucial role in reassuring patients and walking them through the treatment to make their experience less unpleasant.

Healthcare Scholar Carinne Ho, a 25-year-old Radiation Therapist at the National University Hospital (NUH), also describes her role as that of an emotional and moral support system for her patients (both adults and children). She adds cheerfully, “I find great fulfilment being there for my patients during their treatment period and being able to walk them through this difficult time!”

What Made You Decide To Take Up The Healthcare Scholarship?

Carinne Ho: I first came to know about the Healthcare Scholarship via a booth set up in the University of Sydney campus where I was studying. I have also known seniors who have taken up this scholarship and they too encouraged me to apply for it – in fact, my sister is also a Healthcare Scholar! In the end, I chose to take up this scholarship as I can put to practice what I have studied and I was very certain I wanted to be part of the Singapore healthcare sector.

"I find great fulfilment being there for my patients during their treatment period and being able to walk them through this difficult time!"

Share With Us Some Highlights Of Your Scholarship Journey In Australia.

Carinne: During my studies, I attended a conference in Adelaide where I gained amazing insights into the advances made in radiation therapy technology and how it is being adopted today. My experience at this conference ignited my desire to conduct more research on radiation technology – in fact, I spent my final year in university doing a thesis on and learning more about radiation therapy from field experts.

Describe Some Of Your Roles And Responsibilities As A Radiation Therapist.

Carinne: Radiation Therapists are Allied Health professionals in the field of radiation oncology, involved in the simulation, planning and administration of ionising radiation for cancer treatment.

I am currently responsible for administering radiation treatment to cancer patients using the treatment machine (also known as a linear accelerator) to generate and administer high energy radiation to treat cancer safely and accurately. I also make use of image-guided technology to locate tumour targets prior to treatment for more accurate radiation delivery.

Some of my patients may feel anxious while lying in the treatment room. To make them feel better, I try putting on some soothing background music and engage in conversation with them as a form of reassurance. In addition, I also counsel and advise my patients on possible radiation therapy side-effects they may encounter and how to manage these effectively.

This is where I find myself being a pillar of emotional support for my patients throughout their treatment period. Being able to connect with my patients and reassuring them is what I really look forward to in my job!

Tell Us More About Radiation Therapy And How It Can Benefit Patients.

Carinne: Radiation therapy is an important component of cancer management and it can be used as a primary treatment for cancer or to alleviate symptoms (such as pain) in advanced or late-stage cancer where the disease has spread extensively. It is often combined with other treatment modalities such as surgery and chemotherapy to produce a more holistic treatment protocol for patients.

Carinne Ho Juan Phoon
Healthcare Scholar

Radiation Therapist,
National University Hospital

Bachelor of Medical Radiation
Science (Radiation Therapy),
University of Sydney, Australia

"During my two years with NUH, I’ve been lucky to have my senior colleagues impart their knowledge to me and teach me the importance of patient care."

As previously mentioned, image-guidance radiation therapy helps locate tumour targets prior to treatment. Thanks to technological advances, we are now able to carry out frequent imaging, improving the precision and accuracy of the radiation treatment. This in turn opens up possibilities for more sophisticated and personalised treatments for our patients.

How Have You Grown In Your Time As A Radiation Therapist With NUH?

Carinne: During my two years with NUH, I’ve been lucky to have my senior colleagues impart their knowledge to me and teach me the importance of patient care – this has inspired me to do my best and make a difference in my patients' lives!

Interacting with patients from all walks of life has also improved the way I communicate with others, and I’ve also become more patient and compassionate in general. I’ve grown to understand the meaning of being there every step of the way for each patient as a listening ear and functioning as their much-needed moral support.

What Advice Do You Have For Aspiring Healthcare Scholars?

Carinne: Aspiring Healthcare Scholars should definitely be sure of what they are in for. Find out more about the healthcare sector before deciding if you are a suitable fit for it. To get a better idea of what the job entails, try taking up a job where you shadow healthcare professionals in a real-life setting.

At the end of the day, I feel that helping others in their time of need is emotionally challenging but an absolutely rewarding endeavour. A profession in healthcare is indeed a meaningful one so if you have the passion, join me in shaping the future of Singapore healthcare!