When the COVID-19 virus hit Singapore shores, Joanne Lim, Senior Medical Social Worker at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), had to take on a new role unlike any she had experienced before.
In this feature, she shares her thoughts and observations about the pandemic during these challenging times.
How did you feel when you saw the news of the community clusters this year?
The first thought that came to my mind was: "How did this virus infect so many lives in such a short span of time?" It was very contagious and unlike other infectious diseases which Singapore had dealt with in the past. However challenging the COVID-19 pandemic is, I had full confidence that we could overcome the new cases. I believed in my healthcare colleagues, our infection control protocols and Singapore's healthcare system.
Tell us about your experience as a frontliner during this pandemic.
In 2020, I was deployed to the screening centre at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). As I had to operate in a new environment, and in a capacity beyond that of my regular role, it was a challenging period. I had to be trained in performing electrocardiograms, administering COVID-19 swabs and taking parameters. It wasn't easy being on three rotating shifts, and the donning of protective equipment resulted in facial abrasions and a painful pressure sore on my nose bridge.
However, I also remembered ending my stint at NCID feeling joyful. I had witnessed excellent camaraderie from the team there, picked up new skills and developed an even deeper respect for my impressive nursing colleagues.
When the virus infiltrated into TTSH and formed a cluster in April this year, I felt like the virus had hit too close to home this time around. Through rigorous contact tracing, we had colleagues placed on Leave of Absence or Quarantine Order. Unfortunately, I was one of them. I felt really bad having to leave the COVID-19 battle midway, while my colleagues continued running operations with reduced manpower. Despite the circumstances, my colleagues took it in their stride and carried on fighting. Although busy and worn out, they regularly set time aside to check in on our well-being. Their care and concern gave us comfort and support, which helped us pull through the isolation period.
What keeps you going during this difficult time?
The unwavering support of my husband and family members. They have always backed my decisions, be it to continue working as a medical social worker or to be on the front line and showered me with lots of care and concern while respecting the protocols that I adhere to. I would think that they are proud of me for doing my part for the nation!
The words in Chinese read: “With our hands and heart, we will forge ahead together”. Photo from Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Facebook page.
I am also heartened by the goodwill from various organisations and members of the community through food, drinks and care packs. What touched me deeply was the heart-warming banner hung by the members of the public outside TTSH on 7 May 2021. It was an incredibly moving act and spurred us to continue the fight.
Could you share the importance of being vaccinated?
We have heard much from various infectious disease experts on the importance and benefits of vaccinations. Personally, I feel that getting vaccinated is akin to armour for yourself and your loved ones. Even though no armour is 100% fool proof, it is still wise to have it on when you're against such an unpredictable enemy. While healthcare workers fight on the front lines, you can join the fight by getting vaccinated.
During this challenging period, is there something you’d like to say to your fellow healthcare colleagues and the public?
To my fellow healthcare colleagues, I am sure that if we do not give up, we will reap the joy of victory against the virus!
To the public, we are ever so appreciative of the goodwill you have extended to us. You are one of the reasons why we keep doing what we do, and your support makes our work a lot more bearable. Thank you for having our backs and please continue to cheer us on!