![CDATA[ [if IE 9] ]]>
The saying “health is wealth” highlights the importance of health and how it affects an individual’s quality of life physically, emotionally and mentally. Good health allows us to function at our best and experience life to the fullest. Driven by the National Healthcare Group’s (NHG) vision of “Adding Years of Healthy Life”, NHG healthcare professionals strive to provide person-centred and comprehensive healthcare supported by an organisational culture that seeks continual improvement for better care. Ms Tiffany Chew, Senior Podiatrist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, tells us how her profession enables Singaporeans to maximise their quality of life.
As a podiatrist, I assess, diagnose and treat lower limb conditions. This ranges from treating nail and skin conditions to painful biomechanical syndromes affecting a person’s gait and lower limb structures. I usually manage patients with higher health risks and more complex conditions.
My undergraduate studies for a Podiatry degree in the United Kingdom included various clinical placements around the country. These attachments exposed me to the full scope of podiatry practice and the different clinical pathways that can be established for people requiring podiatry services, enabling the delivery of best evidence-based care. The focus on research also greatly honed my critical analysis skills. During my interactions with the patients there, I was amazed by their advanced knowledge of foot conditions and podiatric services. These empowered patients were seeking treatment early and initiating preventative care instead of reactive treatment. My experience abroad has inspired me to improve and raise the awareness and accessibility of podiatry services in Singapore.
I also developed a strong interest in Diabetes and its complications on the foot, which led me to pursue a Master’s in Diabetes. The course was rigorous and covered all aspects of Diabetes, beyond the scope of podiatry. It enriched my understanding of the condition and its complications from multiple perspectives, and helps me to provide holistic care to my patients. The experience has equipped me with the necessary knowledge and skills to improve Singapore’s services for managing diabetic foot complications.
There are ample and dynamic career development opportunities in my organisation. There are also opportunities to learn on-the-job. TTSH and NHG are committed to developing staff in all aspects, ranging from clinical work to management. I have been able to build a substantial portfolio over the years in the areas of clinical expertise, research, administration, management and clinical education. Within my department, I drive initiatives to improve podiatric care for patients with diabetes, and foot wounds.
Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to run the first multidisciplinary clinic for limb salvage for patients with diabetic foot ulcers, otherwise known as the Lower Extremity Amputation Prevention Programme (LEAPP). The LEAPP clinic is an initiative involving vascular surgeons, endocrinologists, podiatrists and wound nurses. Its specialists work together to create a personalised treatment plan tailored to each patient’s needs.
The clinic is made possible only with the unwavering support from TTSH and NHG. We work closely with NHG Polyclinics, our primary care partner, to ensure patients receive timely access to multidisciplinary care and treatment. We seek to facilitate seamless care between primary and tertiary settings. It is heartening to be part of the NHG family, where we aim to deliver the best care to our patients as one team!
Some years back, a patient with diabetes was referred to me. He had been admitted repeatedly for a recurrent wound infection at the bottom of his second toe on his left foot. When I examined his foot, I realised that the wound was at a strange location, where there was no overloading or anatomical variance that could have caused it. The patient himself had no idea what had happened. He said that the only footwear he used was his sports shoes, which he had worn for years. When I checked the inside of his shoe, I found a nail embedded in it. This was what caused the repeated wounding and infection. The neuropathy he developed from diabetes prevented him from detecting that the nail had pierced through the sole of his shoe. This meant that he did not suffer from a diabetic foot ulcer. I was so glad I was able to prevent amputation of his toe.
A career in healthcare is challenging as it requires a keen problem-solving mind, lots of perseverance and, most importantly, empathy. You will face high patient load, stressful clinical situations, and frustrated patients, caregivers and family members. However, the joy and fulfilment from seeing patients recover and leading better lives is worth it all.
I would like to share my favourite quote by physicist Albert Einstein: “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” This perfectly encapsulates what a career in healthcare is like – you give what you can to help others, and you will find meaning in what you have done despite the exhaustion. It is rewarding knowing that your patients benefit from your hard work and effort.
This article was first published in BrightSparks Magazine July 2018. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.