When it comes to career satisfaction, Tan Bee Yee has it in spades at the SingHealth Community Hospitals, where she is dedicated to helping her patients to live well and with peace of mind.
Tan Bee Yee was merely accompanying her younger brother to the physiotherapy clinic when she was a little girl when she was struck by inspiration. She saw how the physiotherapist helped her brother heal and that remained with her for a long time.
When she embarked on a career in the healthcare sector 25 years ago, she remembered that moment. The 48-year-old is currently the Head, Allied Health at Singhealth Community Hospitals.
Like most GCE ‘A’ Levels graduates, Bee Yee had to plan out what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Plan A was to be a physiotherapist, Plan B was to be an educator like her mother. Plan A thankfully worked out for her.
Physiotherapy was not offered in the local universities, so Bee Yee went to King’s College in the United Kingdom to pursue her studies. It was an eye-opening and enriching experience for her.
“Having to live on your own overseas was scary. You have to manage your finances and everything else. I had to learn how to adapt to life in a different country and system. That can widen your perspective about things,” she said.
“It would’ve been different if I chose to study locally, as I would have missed my ‘second growth spurt’!” added Bee Yee, with a laugh.
Imbued with a global perspective and a degree in Physiotherapy, she returned home to embark on her journey of caring and helping those in need. Her first stint was at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where she learnt how to manage and prioritise her cases.
She honed her craft and for her hard work and dedication, Bee Yee was promoted to the position of Head of Physiotherapy in 2009. She was managing 200 people from physiotherapists, therapy assistants to administrative support personnel.
Then there was an opportunity to do more her patients outside the hospital environment.
“We always wondered, what happens to the patients when they leave our doors? The only way to find out is to be involved. We want to make sure that we enable and empower patients when they are discharged,” said Bee Yee.
So in her current role as the Head, Allied Health at Singhealth Community Hospitals, she can expand the care into the community.
“With my prior experience managing a team of physiotherapists, I was approached to take on this role. However, it is in a slightly different capacity because I have to manage the physiotherapists, and other allied health services,” said Bee Yee.
She explained that the Allied Health Team at Singhealth includes Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Pharmacists and Medical Social Workers.
The different Allied Health disciplines work together with the doctors and nurses to holistically manage patients in the community hospitals. The objective is to bridge the care for patients as they transit from the hospital, then subsequently to home and eventually integrate back to the community.
Said Bee Yee: “To give you an idea of how my team works together, the therapists continue to work with patients so that they handle their daily routines when they discharge from the hospital. The pharmacists help patients manage their medications for their various medical conditions. The dietitians work out the nutritional requirements and meal choices best suited for individual patients, and counsel them on various food options they can have when they return home.”
She added: “Besides providing financial assistance for needy patients, the medical social workers also refer patients to the appropriate social services for a smooth transition back to the community. The entire clinical team also work with caregivers to support them in taking care of their loved ones.”
Bee Yee oversees the cluster of community hospitals, which comprises Bright Vision Hospital, Sengkang Community and Outram Community hospitals. Her main responsibilities include driving clinical strategy, professional development and allied health operations to ensure a high standard of professional practice and quality of care is consistently delivered to the three community hospitals.
After 25 years on the job, her passion for what she does remains unabated.
There is always a misconception that physiotherapy is mostly for sports. Physiotherapy can be used in a wide range of disciplines such as orthopaedic, neurology and paediatric, and across age groups. The key, whether dealing with babies or senior citizens, is to understand the patients’ problems, their needs and concerns to set achievable goals. It is important to build a rapport with patients, and gain their trust.
The demand for community rehabilitation services is also increasing and fast becoming an important aspect of physiotherapy. Working with patients to allow them to return to their daily routines, be it work, social or recreational is something future physiotherapists should be open to as part of their jobs. This is in line with Ministry of Health’s (MOH) “Beyond Hospital to Community” strategy, as more resources are being channelled to building up community capacity over the years. “Beyond Hospital to Community”, together with “Beyond Healthcare to Health” and “Beyond Quality to Value” are part of MOH’s “3 Beyonds” plan to sustain quality healthcare in Singapore.
Many people have the passion to help, but wanting to help isn’t enough. You must have the patience and tenacity to build sincere relationships with your patients. Only then you can be at your most effective as a professional. Most importantly, physiotherapy should be something that you can see yourself doing for the long run. Finding meaning and purpose are vital for a long lasting career in any field.
Having been in the healthcare sector for 25 years, I can attest to the fact that it provides professional training to nurture talented and compassionate individuals to uplift their practices and ability to serve their patients. You can definitely have a fulfilling career!
This article was first published in BrightSparks Magazine June 2020. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.