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Getting people moving



What makes physiotherapy special is being able to make a difference in the lives of others – from restoring function to improving movement. It is a challenging career, but helping my patients recover and become stronger is both my privilege and a priceless reward. I am glad I took the plunge to make a mid-career switch to physiotherapy.

I had been in human resource management for 18 years before deciding to pursue my passion for physiotherapy. My first brush with healthcare went way back to my secondary school days where I was a St John Singapore cadet. However, even though I longed to continue my journey, there were no tertiary courses for physiotherapy available back then.

Chronic back pains as an adult led me to pursue pilates, reigniting my interest in healthcare and the human body. During the same time, my mother was admitted to the hospital due to chronic lung disease. It was an ordeal, watching my once sprightly mother confined to her home due to illness. She eventually passed on due to respiratory failure.

I wondered what I could have done to make things easier for her. That was when I chanced upon a write-up on the Professional Conversion Programme for physiotherapists and decided to rekindle my love affair with healthcare.

It was not easy starting from zero again. My friends did not understand why I would want to study for a diploma when I already had a degree, and give up a great career. They thought I had been retrenched! (laughs) To be honest, I was also being headhunted for a new job at that time. The recruiter did not quite believe me when I turned down the position.

Hitting the books again 10 years after I left school proved to be a daunting task; it is like trying to restart an old car engine! What added to the challenge was that I had never done biology in school. I was pretty much lost during the first year of my studies. I also recall not knowing how to connect with my much younger classmates.

Thankfully, there were plenty of group projects to get the conversation going. Before long, I was enjoying my classes and my classmates got used to me sticking around them!

I was also extremely grateful for the unwavering support from my family. My husband even planned his schedule around my classes. My siblings also assured me that our father would get enough financial support while I was studying.

I am Cheryl Tan, a full-fledged physiotherapist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. If getting people back on their feet moves you, physiotherapy may just be the thing.