As an Allied Health Professional, Matthew Neo finds fulfilment in helping his patients get back on their feet (usually literally!) in his role as a Senior Physiotherapist in the Rehabilitation Department at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
Matthew never aspired to be a healthcare professional in his formative years. But a chance encounter would introduce him to the profession of a lifetime – caring for others as a physiotherapist.
While exploring his career options after junior college, he job-shadowed a pharmacist and a medical doctor. He decided to pursue physiotherapy in the end, and the experience opened his mind to the rewarding and fulfilling path of healthcare.
Matthew was awarded the Healthcare Merit Award from MOHH. Driven by his passion and innate sense of care to other people, Matthew graduated with a first-class honours degree in the subject from the University of Sydney (together with an academic merit award, no less) and blossomed into an accomplished physiotherapist. The 29-year-old is currently a Senior Physiotherapist in the Rehabilitation Department at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
More specifically, Matthew is the team leader of Orthopaedics Physiotherapy. The position requires him to wear many hats and keeps his every workday exciting and enriching.
He manages a team of seven physiotherapists and two therapy assistants. In this role, much of his challenge is to ensure that patients are adequately attended to and a large part of it involves keeping his team mentally and physically well. Resource-management and planning is key, he explained.
“Most of these are done through prior planning, thinking constantly of the different factors that may affect our operations and coming up with solutions and contingency plans so that we are not caught unaware.”
“The team is provided with a good level of flexibility. They have a generous amount of leeway to develop and implement their treatment plans for their patients without feeling judged at every single point along the way. We have established a culture of being able to freely share our opinions on patient cases. This has allowed junior therapists to be more forthcoming with their views on patient care and raise questions on any aspect of their thought process.”
“We work together to continually advance and expand the role of physiotherapy in the hospital. This involves initiating or enhancing pathways of care for patients to ensure that they receive the best quality care and rehabilitation in the hospital which, hopefully, results in shorter hospital stays.” “As the team leader, I take the lead in proposing and discussing these new models of care with the relevant orthopaedic and surgical consultants, and pitching these ideas to have them come on board with us.”
Furthermore, Matthew is responsible for training new staff who join the team, as well as juniors on rotation. Besides looking after their welfare, it is his job to ensure that they can help patients with confidence, and feel supported in their daily work.
His role requires specific aptitudes and it is not for everyone. However, Matthew told us that Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) like himself can choose and forge their own career pathways via the Clinical, Education, Research or Administrative tracks.
“AHPs keen in research and education tend to have interests in being a Clinical Educator, designing clinical trials or pursuing a PhD. They see the importance of ensuring that the next generation of therapists receive the best education and training, and that the practice continues to be informed by scientific evidence,” he detailed.
“AHPs who like to go behind the scenes to look at how processes are formed and the factors to consider each time a new service is set up may find themselves suited for the administration track. These AHPs use their clinical expertise to improve work processes and to ensure that their services are efficient and affordable.”
“Finally, AHPs who find joy in direct patient care and continuously upgrading their clinical skills may find that being a clinician fits them best. These AHPs derive satisfaction from patient interaction and spend the bulk of their time delivering the best possible care to their patients.”
However, in the fast-moving and complex healthcare sector, lines are not always clearly drawn. Relating to his current responsibilities, Matthew said that he is involved in both clinical and administration tracks.
“Aside from these, I also conduct research studies occasionally in the department with my colleagues, but the bulk of my time is spent on patient care and managing the operations of the team.”
Matthew added that beyond the daily operations and responsibilities, AHPs get to pursue professional development courses or even pursue a master's degree. “So, there is really no lack of opportunities available,” he enthused.
Indeed, every healthcare professional brings different disciplines and skillsets to the table. For that, Matthew appreciates how everybody is able to collaborate to deliver the best patient care.
He said: “Every professional has a role to play, from the time the doctor examines and diagnoses the patient, to the time they are kept under the watchful eyes of the nurse during their hospital stay, before they go home or continue their rehabilitation with the AHPs. While the functions that each AHP serves may be different, we play an important role at different junctures during the patient's journey.”
Most definitely, with the camaraderie, opportunities for personal growth and the chance to help people get back on their proverbial feet, a career as an AHP is both fulfilling and exciting.
“The healthcare sector is one that is ever-evolving. There is not a day in the healthcare sector where I feel that I am not needed by my patients or the organisation. Each day presents a new challenge to step up to, or a new problem to solve.”
“If you are drawn by environments where change is the only constant, healthcare will fit you perfectly.”
This article was first published in BrightSparks Magazine February 2021. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.