Wong Whye Yen, Health Merit Award recipient, is at the frontlines of patient diagnostics as a radiographer at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
An accurate diagnosis is the first step towards a cure. Hence, radiographers are vital frontline healthcare professionals, performing scans to get an accurate picture of what ails a patient.
Wong Whye Yen was attracted to that particular aspect of a radiographer's work - the opportunity to interact directly with patients while performing diagnostics. When she saw a MOHH scholarship booth with a diagnostic radiography representative excitedly displaying a light-box with of several radiographs with interesting pathological findings, she knew she had found her place.
She recalled: “A radiographer is a frontline health professional, which fulfils my desire to take a more direct involvement in working with and helping patients.”
MOHH recognised her passion and awarded her the Healthcare Merit Award, which allowed her to pursue a Bachelor of Applied Sciences (Diagnostic Radiography) at the University of Sydney. After graduating with first-class honours, she returned to become a radiographer at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
She confessed to facing a steep learning curve as she adapted to the hospital setting. “As students, our main focus was to develop our radiography knowledge and standard patient positioning skills.”
However, communication skills and adaptability played a bigger role in actual practice. “I was expected to make clinical decisions independently and be able to adapt my approach of performing the scan to accommodate each patient.”
“Another important aspect of work that was not covered in detail in university was how to foster clear communication between patients and fellow healthcare workers. As time passed however, the transition became smoother as I became accustomed to the departmental protocols and workflow.”
Whye Yen rose to the challenge, learning common phrases and words in dialect to better communicate with her patients. Now, she is able to build rapport with them while obtaining accurate diagnostics, which were the factors that attracted her to pursue a career as a radiographer in the first place.
Another particularly exciting part of her work is how no two days are the same.
She described her constantly-changing workdays: “I may be working in inpatient X-rays, meaning that I will coordinate with the ward nurses to fetch patients to the X-ray room or perform the scan at the patient's bedside using a portable X-ray machine.”
“Or, I may be working in the operating theatre, using an X-ray machine known as the C-arm to provide images during surgery to assist the orthopaedic surgeons in fixing a broken bone. I may even be in the A&E resuscitation room performing the trauma X-ray series for a patient badly injured by a road traffic accident.”
But no matter the setting, a radiographer must be responsible and accurate.
She explained: “Some of my responsibilities are the same no matter where I work. I am obliged to check through each request prior to the examination to ensure that it is appropriate for the patient and suggest amendments to the referring doctor as needed. I have to ensure that radiation safety protection measures are adhered to by the patients, staff and the public. I am also responsible for making sure that the equipment I am using is working normally and report any damages for repairs.”
“Finally, I am responsible for guiding new colleagues on the proper department protocols and workflow.” In keeping with the tenets of radiography, her first advice to new radiographers is to prize accuracy over speed and proceed meticulously through each step.
On the subject of new colleagues, Whye Yen looks forward to meeting many more.
In radiography alone, there are four available career pathways – clinical, education, research or administration. Radiographers can also become part of the radiology department's Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) team, maintaining the integrity of the radiology imaging database.
Healthcare as a whole is always in need of more talent. “The healthcare sector is still expanding to meet up with the burgeoning demands of the population, which provides a lot of job opportunities,” she explained.
Whye Yen knits socks, which she finds interesting due to the construction involved.
“Furthermore, the myriad of healthcare jobs available within the sector offers a wide selection of career paths for individuals that can cater to various preferences. There are jobs for people who prefer to work on the frontlines or behind the scenes. There are also jobs within the healthcare sector which seek non-medical skill sets involving numbers, technology, even law.”
A career in healthcare has something for everyone, as Whye Yen knows well.
This article was first published in BrightSparks Magazine February 2021. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.