Bus-stop ad gave him push to make career switch to paramedicine

Mr Sun Chang (left) with Ms Joanne Lau and Mr Edward Toh, who are among the pioneer batch of the paramedic senior officer scheme launched by the Singapore Civil Defence Force. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - He graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2019 and got a job as a commissioning engineer that same year.

But when he saw a poster at a bus stop near his flat encouraging graduates with degrees in any discipline to sign up and become a paramedic senior officer, he decided to make a career switch.

Mr Sun Chang, 29, is one of 10 cadets in the pioneer batch of the paramedic senior officer scheme launched by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on Oct 5.

The scheme, which grooms leaders for SCDF in education, research, operational and clinical aspects, aims to meet increasing demands in emergency medical services brought about by Singapore's ageing population.

Through a year-long diploma course in paramedic science at Nanyang Polytechnic and 5½ months at the Civil Defence Academy, the cadets - five men and five women - will be equipped with advanced skills and knowledge to enhance SCDF's overall management of emergency medical services.

Mr Sun said his career switch was driven by a desire to help people.

"A turning point for me was when the Covid-19 virus hit... I just felt that there was a need to help people medically," he said.

"So when I saw the poster at the bus stop and realised I did not need a degree that was related to paramedicine to help others, I knew I had to take the chance to make a difference."

The same advertisement had a similar effect on Mr Edward Toh, 30, who worked as a case executive at a children's home for two years.

The political science graduate from the National University of Singapore said that while he loved his previous job, he found it heartrending to see how Covid-19 affected visitation hours for families to see the children at the home.

"Some of these children come from dysfunctional families. A few of them have even experienced family violence before. But even though I found such joy serving them, I saw how Covid-19 was making such an impact on everyone, including these children. It drove me to want to help people medically," said Mr Toh.

It has been a steep learning curve since undertaking his diploma studies on Oct 18, Mr Toh said, but it has also been very fulfilling.

The cadets will be equipped with advanced skills and knowledge to enhance SCDF's overall management of emergency medical services. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The cadets will be commissioned as lieutenants in July 2023, after which they take on the role of emergency medical services shift commanders in fire stations.

Assistant Commissioner Yong Meng Wah, SCDF director of the emergency medical services, said: "As Singapore heads towards an ageing population with a longer life expectancy, SCDF's emergency medical services need to transform to deliver higher service standards.

"One means of doing so in this new operational landscape is to have paramedic senior officers at the front line to lead and support our pool of paramedics."

For Ms Joanne Lau, being a paramedic was a childhood dream.

The 22-year-old graduated from NTU this year with a degree in business analytics and started working as a data analyst consultant shortly after.

"But my dream was always to become a paramedic. In fact, I wanted to become one after I completed junior college, but my parents encouraged me to pursue a university degree first," she said.

Her interest in the field grew as she volunteered with the Singapore Red Cross as a first aid chaperone, assisting health professionals for six years since she was in Secondary 1.

"I was doing morning exercises at the Civil Defence Academy and I realised I was so happy that this is what I will be doing for a long time. My goal is to save lives, and through this, I can do that," said Ms Lau.

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