Owing to my days as a Red Cross cadet, my interest in a healthcare career had been piqued at a young age. I just wasn't sure what healthcare profession to venture into. Medicine or nursing may have seemed like obvious choices, but I wasn't convinced. Thanks to a good friend, I was introduced to physiotherapy. Her dream was to be a sports physiotherapist for the national soccer team so that she could 'fan girl' over the boys in the team (laughs). When I first heard about this fantasy of hers, I laughed it off because she was my complete opposite - while I was very much into sports, she was not the athletic sort.
However, her dream did leave me intrigued about physiotherapy. I did some research and realised it involves rehabilitation of the body through therapeutic exercises. Depending on the patient's condition, some of these exercises can include lunges, stretching and squats - which are what I am accustomed to as a sportsman. It sounded like the perfect profession which combined healthcare and my love for exercise. With that, I decided to pursue my studies in physiotherapy. Today, I am a Senior Physiotherapist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
What many don't know – including myself, at the start of my journey – is that the work of the physiotherapist is very diverse. We don't just look at ankle and knee ailments. As a physiotherapist, I handle issues such as weight management, cardiac rehabilitation, diabetes and chronic diseases. I often have to provide advice to my patients about the importance of an active lifestyle for good health. Naturally, I have to walk the talk and lead a healthy lifestyle too! This way, I can connect with my patients and better help them in their journey to recovery.
Of course, I don't work in isolation! Good teamwork makes a big difference in the patients' recovery. In the hospital, I work in a multidisciplinary team which consists of doctors, nurses, dietitians, occupational therapists (OT) and other allied health professionals. Everyone is crucial as we have our areas of expertise which can contribute to the patient’s care holistically. Take for instance when I am called into the Intensive Care Unit, I am part of the cardiopulmonary team who looks at patients with heart and lung issues. Here, I work with nurses and use physiotherapy techniques to remove phlegm from sick patients who might otherwise run the risk of drowning in their secretions.
A common misconception of my job is that we are masseurs or patient walkers - funnily, even some of my healthcare colleagues think the same! Well, we are not taught massage techniques in school. Others also assume that physiotherapy is only for the elderly or injured sportspeople. Physiotherapy is for everyone, and we prescribe exercises to help with conditions ranging from women's urinary incontinence to conditions of the inner ear which can result in vertigo.
Some may also be confused between the job scopes of physiotherapists and OTs. While our work does overlap, we do have our areas of specialty. Let's take the example of a patient suffering from hand issues. While a physiotherapist would look into helping the patient regain his functional capability through exercises, an OT looks into helping the patient go back to doing his activities of daily living independently, such as feeding himself.
My most memorable patient was an elderly lady who was a long-time diabetes sufferer. Frankly, I had a love-hate relationship with her at the start... I loved that she always turns up for her appointments, but I was frustrated about her dishonesty in reporting her food intake. Even though she had high blood sugar, she continued with her regular diet. She was also more concerned about what she couldn't do, instead of focusing on her health and blood test results. To control her sugar level, I recorded the figures before and after her workout to show her what difference exercising can make! After seeing the results, she was grateful and became motivated to continue treatment. There is a great sense of satisfaction when I manage to nurse my patients back to health.
I am Senior Physiotherapist Muhammad Jazimin Haron from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. If you lead an active lifestyle, work well in a team and want to make a difference, physiotherapy may just be right up your alley!