Younger and more qualified allied healthcare professionals join healthcare scene

Ms Nazlyna Bahtiaraffandi aligning a Below-Knee prosthesis. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL HEALTHCARE GROUP
Ms Nazlyna Bahtiaraffandi aligning a Below-Knee prosthesis. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL HEALTHCARE GROUP
Ms Nazlyna Bahtiaraffandi modifying a plaster cast for an Ankle-Foot orthosis. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL HEALTHCARE GROUP
Ms Nazlyna Bahtiaraffandi modifying a plaster cast for an Ankle-Foot orthosis. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL HEALTHCARE GROUP

SINGAPORE - Younger and more qualified allied health professionals are joining the healthcare scene.

At the National Healthcare Group, twelve per cent of these workers - such as physiotherapists, dieticians and audiologists - are now aged 24 and under, the Group said on Tuesday. Just five years ago only one per cent were aged below 25.

The Group - which includes Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the Institute of Mental Health and NHG polyclinics - also said more of its workers are better qualified, holding degrees and diplomas.The number of allied health workers with degrees increased 31 percent, from 932 in 2010, and those with diplomas spiked 66 percent from 218 in 2010.

The National University Hospital has also seen a 45 percent in degree and diploma holders, and more Master's holders too.

The groups attributed the rises to better job prospects, pay and awareness of the occupation. The health ministry also gives out more than 100 scholarships to allied health professionals each year.

Ms Nazlyna Bahtiaraffandi, 24, who has been working with the NHG for seven months, graduated from junior college six years ago and could not decide what course to embark on until she read about becoming a prosthetist in a health ministry booklet.

After finding out that the job involved making artificial limbs for patients who have lost theirs, she thought of a friend who had been born without an arm.

"He was alienated," she said. "I wanted to help this group that was really in need."

Ms Nazlyna took up a four-year Ministry of Health scholarship to study prosthetics and orthotics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. She is now one of eight prosthetics and orthotics specialists at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

"It's challenging because you have to customise every prosthetic limb to the person's level of activity," said Ms Nazlyna who sees eight patients a day, including some who have had foot amputations due to diabetes. "But it's satisfying when patients recover."

Ms Susan Niam, chairman, Allied Health Services and Pharmacy at TTSH said, "The scope of work has had to evolve to meet changing needs of our patients and community." More allied health workers are needed to support patients at different stages of their recovery, she added.

Singapore has about 2,500 occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech therapists registered under the Allied Health Professions Council. About half are 20 to 29 years old, while about 70 per cent are Singaporeans or permanent residents.