Agency for Integrated Care
MOHH Cluster | AIC

Championing Empathy and Compassion in Community Care

Motivated by her personal journey, Community Care Scholar Chan Wan Tian chose medical social work, a key role in healthcare that provides holistic support for patients throughout their recovery journey, empowering them to navigate the complexities of healthcare and rehabilitation.
Agency for Integrated Care

Chan Wan Tian is a recipient of the Community Care Scholarship offered by MOH Holdings (MOHH) in partnership with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). She is currently a third-year undergraduate student, pursuing social work at NUS and will join The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) after her graduation.

Chan Wan Tian’s deep empathy for families facing challenges while caring for their loved ones stems from a personal experience. At the age of nine, Wan Tian’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disease that hinders the ability to form new memories and even retrieve old ones. Her grandmother’s condition created tension and negativity within the household, as the family struggled with managing her mood swings and change in behaviour.

Suffice to say, it was a traumatic phase in Wan Tian’s childhood. As she grew in maturity, she started to think about the struggles of caregivers, the helplessness faced by patients like her grandmother, and the gaps within the healthcare system that could possibly address these issues.

She said: “Throughout that challenging period, a recurring wish I had was for someone to be there to offer our family the necessary resources and emotional support to help us navigate the complex emotions and experiences we were going through.”

These thoughts and reflections inspired her to be a Medical Social Worker.

“What drew me to Medical Social Work is its emphasis on not only working with individuals but also with the broader systems surrounding those individuals, recognising that events or individuals can have far-reaching effects on other interconnected systems. Hence, I was inspired to pursue Social Work in university as I can deeply empathise with families who find themselves in situations where they feel lost and hopeless,” she explained.

“I hope to be that person who can offer resources, support and hope to individuals and families grappling with vulnerability and helplessness.”

Being A Beacon of Hope

Indeed, Medical Social Workers play a crucial role in the healthcare system by engaging and assessing patients to understand their needs, risks, and functioning levels. Employing a strengths-based perspective, patients are viewed not just as recipients of help but also as individuals with capabilities to address their own challenges. Through collaborative efforts, Medical Social Workers work with patients to establish goals and develop care plans.

Medical Social Workers help patients with care and discharge planning to facilitate smooth transitions for patients from the hospital to the community, as well as counselling and psychological support to help them navigate emotions such as grief and anxiety. They also refer patients and caregivers to support groups to address the emotional distress experienced by individuals dealing with health-related issues, fostering a sense of community and shared understanding.

Additionally, they assist in the administrative process for formal assistance schemes like MediFund. For those needing more support, they connect patients with relevant resources to alleviate treatment costs and financial burdens.

In essence, Medical Social Workers contribute to the holistic well-being of patients by addressing not only their medical needs, but also their emotional, social, and financial challenges through a collaborative and empathetic approach.

“As a social work scholar, my greatest aspiration is to make a positive impact on the well-being of individuals and families facing challenges by providing them with the support and resources needed to overcome challenges, build resilience and lead fulfilling lives.” Chan Wan Tian

Charting the Path to Community Care

Wan Tian’s heart has always been set on the field of Community Care. This is especially after encountering a low-income single mother of four during a community based project. The mother had undergone a leg amputation due to diabetes and had difficulty finding work thereafter.

Wan Tian learned that the leg amputation had exacerbated the mother’s financial worries. At that time, she not only needed long term medical care for her diabetes, but also experienced a decreased ability to carry out her activities of daily living and to find a paying job to support her family.

While she subsequently received social welfare support, it was unable to cover both the substantial medical cost of managing her chronic disease and family needs, given that she was unable to find any employment with her impaired physical status.

Wan Tian realised that such mental stress and worry were commonly faced by those dealing with severe and/or chronic health conditions and with limited financial resources.

It motivated Wan Tian to seek a path where she could offer help and support to those in the community, facing multifaceted challenges where she could make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals navigating through health-related adversities.

She subsequently applied for a Community Care Scholarship offered by MOH Holdings (MOHH) in partnership with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), and succesfully clinched it to support her undergraduate studies. Wan Tian will join the Community Care sector upon graduation.

The Community Care Scholarship has provided her with financial support, allowing her to focus on her studies and training and has connected her with a network of fellow healthcare scholars and professionals to learn from their experiences. This has exposed her to the interdisciplinary nature of healthcare settings where social workers work alongside healthcare professionals, an essential aspect of the medical social work field. She also values the mentorship support.

“I am thankful for the mentorship opportunity provided by the scholarship officer. Knowing that there is a mentor I can turn to when needed is a source of affirmation and provides me with the confidence as I pursue my passion throughout my academic journey,” she said.

Competence in Medical Social Work

Currently in her third year of undergraduate studies in social work at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Wan Tian’s curriculum covers topics such as design thinking and artificial intelligence to foster interdisciplinary learning. Her modules encompass a broad spectrum, including case and community work, group work, as well as research and policy. Her practical education includes field practices, which provide her with first hand experiences crucial for her future in social work.

One of Wan Tian’s field placements was at a voluntary children’s home where she engaged and worked with female youths who had undergone traumatic experiences. “During this field placement, I had daily interactions with the youths, and it significantly enhanced my communication and empathy skills. A major takeaway was learning how to individualise every youth, tailor my approach to each youth, adapting my communication style and strategies to establish rapport with them. Additionally, given the girls’ backgrounds, I learned to engage in risk assessment and crisis management,” she reflected.

There are also ample opportunities for Wan Tian to be involved in student-led initiatives and committees like the Neighbourhood Health Service Kids organised by students from NUS Social Work and NUS Medicine, where she collaborates with them to provide healthcare screenings for the disadvantaged paediatric population in neighbourhoods. Additionally, she also conducts social assessments for low-income families, addressing issues like financial assistance and parenting stress.

“This experience has been very useful in providing me with the experience of communicating and working with the disadvantaged population in Singapore, honing my skills in conducting social assessment,” she shared.

Creating Impactful Change

As she envisions the future, Wan Tian is committed to making a meaningful impact as a Medical Social Worker, collaborating with healthcare teams and community resources to provide holistic care to patients and families. She emphasises the importance of recognising individuals not just as clients in need, but as capable individuals with the strengths to tackle their own challenges.

Wan Tian will be joining The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) after she graduates and aims to empower patients by offering tailored support and resources.

Driven by her deep understanding of multifaceted challenges such as the emotional burden that caregivers shoulder and the financial strains faced by those dealing with severe health conditions, she hopes to offer support to individuals navigating through these adversities.

“As a social work scholar, my greatest aspiration is to make a positive impact on the well-being of individuals and families facing challenges by providing them with the support and resources needed to overcome challenges, build resilience and lead fulfilling lives,” she said.

She aspires to address gaps in existing programmes and policies through research and constructive feedback. “This advocacy may involve pursuing research opportunities and providing constructive feedback. I firmly believe that such initiatives can inform evidence-based practices and policies, ultimately leading to positive changes at both individual and societal levels,” she enthused.

For aspiring scholars interested to work within the Community Care sector and in partnership with AIC, Wan Tian advises, “AIC offers scholar engagement opportunities to understand how healthcare extends beyond medical needs and encourages scholars to think and approach holistically about healthcare and well-being. This provides scholars with valuable opportunities to impact the health and welfare of individual patients within the community as a whole.”

If Wan Tian’s dedication inspires you to contribute to Singapore’s healthcare advancement, consider applying for the Community Care Scholarship!