In this new normal, Michelle Chung, Senior Medical Social Worker at SingHealth Polyclinics shares her thoughts on how the pandemic has affected our society, and the importance of vaccination to keep everyone safe.
How did you feel about the increased number of community cases in the recent months?
I took the news calmly; this is the new norm. I believe that the community cases will remain under control as long as everyone is willing to play their part. Remember, wear your masks, get vaccinated and follow all safe distancing measures!
Have you, or your colleagues worked on any COVID-related initiatives?
I recently spoke to an allied health colleague who volunteered to be part of ‘Mission COVE’ (COvid Vaccination for the Elderly). It is a meaningful initiative by SingHealth Polyclinics, in response to the government’s call for elderly persons to come forward to be vaccinated.
During his stint, my colleague called more than 100 seniors (aged 70 years and above) to invite them to receive their jabs. Even though not everyone responded positively, he was not discouraged and continued to provide information and assurance to the best of his ability. I am so proud of him!
As a medical social worker, do you have any thoughts on how the pandemic has affected our society?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our life. It is important to note that the pandemic has not just affected us physically, but mentally as well. To better navigate this psychological risk, I cannot stress enough on the importance of building mental resilience. There are many ways to build mental resilience – one of which is to practise self-care.
Self-care is about deliberately taking time for yourself for the betterment of your mind, body and soul. Some examples of self-care activities include having proper and balanced meals, having sufficient sleep, practising mindfulness, setting clear boundaries at work, and knowing that it is okay to say no.
How has work changed for you since the pandemic?
Video conferencing was not the norm before COVID-19, but it has now become an undeniable part of work. I miss the monthly face-to-face meetings we had in the past, where I was able to interact, bond with and support my colleagues at a deeper level.
How do you feel about the reports of discrimination against healthcare workers?
I was sad to hear about what some healthcare workers had to endure. I think it is human nature to instinctively shy away from danger (in this case, the threat of the COVID-19 virus) and avoid people with known exposure to the virus.
We can only control our own actions. The best we can do is to keep an open heart and remain compassionate. In times like this, it is important for the healthcare family to band together and provide one other with a listening ear.
It is okay not to be okay. No matter how challenging the situation is, help is just around the corner. All we have to do is to ask. There is no need to suffer in silence, we are all in this together!
What keeps you going during this difficult time?
I am grateful to have understanding family members. Although my loved ones are worried for my safety (my work is mainly patient-fronting), they continue to be my steadfast pillar of strength as I do my best on the frontlines.
My supervisors and colleagues have also given me tremendous support – encouraging me regularly, and checking in on my emotional well-being even as I care for others.
As a frontliner, could you share about the importance of being vaccinated?
To be honest, I used to have my reservations towards getting vaccinated as I was uncertain about the long-term side effects of the vaccine. I am immensely grateful to my head of department who patiently listened to my concerns, and gave me the time and space to reconsider.
I am fully vaccinated since June 2021, and I am proud of my decision. I changed my mind because it was crucial for me to protect my loved ones. Although the vaccination may not grant us 100% protection from contracting the virus, it greatly reduces the risk of severe illness.
Stopping the spread is key. Vaccination is one of the most important ways to curb the spread, and something that most of us can do. I encourage everyone to do their part!