The work of a Medical Social Worker entails more than just providing care to patients, as MOHH Healthcare Merit Award scholar, Gloria Poh, will attest.
As the Regional Health System for northern and central Singapore, National Healthcare Group (NHG) is not just concerned about their patients’ physical and functional health, but their emotional and social well-being as well.
In Singapore, NHG is a leading public healthcare provider recognised for the quality of its medical expertise and facilities. Spread across an integrated network of six polyclinics, specialty centres, acute care and tertiary hospitals as well as business units to facilitate high-quality medical care, its work and mission is exhaustive, comprehensive and admirable. The Group always ensures a rich legacy of medical expertise to its philosophy of integrated patient-focused care.
BrightSparks caught up with Medical Social Worker Gloria Poh, who works at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, a medical institution under NHG. In addition to providing care to patients and caregivers, she also works with her multi-disciplinary team to formulate care plans.
When I first started work as a medical social worker, I was overwhelmed by the demands of the job; one big factor is working against time as many patients are usually discharged between a few days to a week. The fast-paced role meant we had to build rapport with these people within the first or second meeting, so our assessments and interventions could be captured. However, over time, I came to appreciate this role as I had the knack and patience to enter their lives faster with tactfulness. Each patient’s journey and intervention are unique and I’m thankful to have a good support network of colleagues, supervisors and be part of the multi-disciplinary team in the hospital.
It is encouraging to see how our healthcare landscape is transforming over the years; pertinently, the active focus on primary and preventive healthcare. This comes as an integral move as the onset of our ageing population looms. Being part of the acute medical and intervention care, I have come to better appreciate the integral role that community can play in ensuring primary care and prevention that can go a long way towards reducing re-admission rates in hospitals, especially older adults with chronic medical conditions. This entails a more seamless coordination of resources between hospitals and community service providers, ensuring that continuity of care is obtained when patient returns back into the community. However, it is just as cognizant to understand that new needs of our population will continue to emerge along the way, and it will always be a balancing act between matching adequate resources and amount of services to the needs of an individual who goes through the entire process of the healthcare spectrum. It is heartening that medical-related discussions like Advance Care Planning (ACP) to better plan for our future health are being monitored.
Since schooling days, I envisioned myself to be in a job that can keep me grounded in the values of empathy, compassion and reaching out to the vulnerable. I stumbled onto social work in my first year of university and knew that it was a path I wanted to take. Influenced by volunteering experiences with older adults in the healthcare setting, I was inspired to take on the healthcare scholarship with MOH Holdings (MOHH) during my second year of studies so as to embark the path of a medical social worker when I start work. I am very thankful for my family who supported my decision, despite being initially worried on the emotional burnout the job could entail.
Being empathetic and compassionate are definitely key traits to juggle with the emotional load that comes along with the job. However, working as a medical social worker in a fast-paced medical setting makes being efficient and emotionally resilient just as integral. Being flexible in our work is essential as well as the demands and dynamics are constantly changing. Also, knowing how to improvise with finite resources will help you develop critical thinking!
I have always been interested in serving and working with the older adult population, so I hope to enrich my experience in the gerontology sector. The intensity of the caregiving journey, progressive onset of medical and care needs as well as coordination of community services have spurred me to want to do more for this group of individuals.
This article was first published in BrightSparks Magazine June 2020. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.