Many people may not realise this, but diagnostic radiographers play a crucial role in fighting the COVID-19 virus. We examine what happens inside the body and capture quality images of it using diagnostic imaging. This helps radiologists and physicians in the diagnosis, treatment and management of cases. I still vividly remember my first contact with a patient diagnosed with COVID-19. Rostered in the emergency department for the night, I received an urgent call requesting for a chest x-ray in the intensive care unit. Thoughts rushed through my head: Steps for hand hygiene, the correct way to don and doff the full personal protective equipment (PPE) and the latest protocol to follow. As a healthcare worker, these infection control measures should have been ingrained in my head. Perhaps my anxieties got the better of me that night.
Fact is, I was afraid – we all were – especially since we were still unsure of what we were dealing with at the early stages of the breakout. The only thing we knew was this: The virus was spreading rapidly. What eventually resurrected my courage was the realisation that I was adequately protected after all! All thanks to the stringent infection control measures my hospital has put into place.
Taking x-rays for suspected and confirmed patients soon became a routine. When Singapore saw a surge in cases involving migrant workers at the dormitories, my colleagues and I were ready for the increased workload. But we ran into an unexpected speed bump: Communication. The dormitory workers spoke mainly Bengali, Tamil and Hindi. Thankfully, peers and seniors from the x-ray team pulled their resources together and shared audio recordings that helped bridge the communication gap. Otherwise, we may not have been able to communicate well with our patients, which could have compromised the quality of images taken during their chest x-rays.
A lot has changed since this battle started. Yet, it continues to bring bouts of uncertainty... I have learnt to live with them though. We have adapted to the ever-changing operational instructions, understanding that adherence to strict guidelines will ensure that the safety of patients and medical personnel is uncompromised. Whether it is ensuring radiological procedures go smoothly for patients, or contributing to the early detection of diseases and injuries, I get the satisfaction of knowing my role impacts every patient who steps into the hospital.
What also keeps me going is my most reliable pillar of support: My family. My mum never fails to check on my well-being. She is often curious about the number of suspected patients I have attended to during the day. But, much as they try their best to be there for me throughout this period, I can tell they are worried. I can only hope the feeling slowly dissipates as they see the numbers decline.
There are many silent everyday heroes besides diagnostic radiographers on the frontline. Laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists and pharmacists too play a part in this fight against the virus, and it is heartening to see more healthcare workers are being acknowledged for their role. Let’s continue to support one another by practising mindfulness, showing empathy and being kind to all around us.
I am Sengkang General Hospital Radiographer Regine Neo, and I hope Singapore will continue cheering us on throughout this battle.