Coronavirus: Workers and jobs

SIA cabin crew members find new calling as patient care officers

Former SIA cabin crew members (from left) Tristan Yap, Regina Yeoh and Sandra Goh found meaning in their work as temporary care ambassadors and decided to quit their airline jobs to become patient care officers at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Mr Yap said
Former SIA cabin crew members (from left) Tristan Yap, Regina Yeoh and Sandra Goh found meaning in their work as temporary care ambassadors and decided to quit their airline jobs to become patient care officers at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Mr Yap said he felt like he had found a new calling in life when a patient gave him a big hug on the day he was discharged. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Former Singapore Airlines (SIA) crew member Tristan Yap, 31, had been working in a temporary role as a care ambassador at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) for just a couple of weeks when he encountered a patient who was delirious after an accident.

The patient was struggling to get out of his bed even though he was being restrained. While the nurses were trying to help him, they were also busy with several other tasks.

Seeing this, Mr Yap volunteered to wheel the patient around the ward to help calm him down, and subsequently helped him with his other needs like his meals. "On the day he was discharged, he motioned to me and he gave me the biggest hug," he said. "That was when I felt like I found a new calling in life."

Mr Yap, who has been at SIA for seven years, quit the airline to join KTPH full-time this month as a patient care officer.

He is one of the three SIA cabin crew who have decided to take on the newly created role full-time. There are about 20 people who have joined so far, with KTPH looking to hire a total of 100 people.

The officers will work with doctors, nurses and allied health staff to take care of patients. For example, they will perform non-clinical functions such as helping patients to clean up and feeding them.

KTPH's chief operating officer Yen Tan said the work of the 60 SIA crew, such as Mr Yap, temporarily deployed at the hospital had inspired it to create the new job.

KTPH and SIA had jointly launched a care ambassador programme in April to temporarily deploy SIA crew who are not flying to help at the hospital.

Ms Tan said: "This crisis showed us that there are people who want to serve in healthcare, but they are waiting for the right opportunity."

The new officers will undergo a full 20-day training curriculum.

Of this, three days of training will be conducted by SIA.

It is the first time SIA is offering its training and development services to an external organisation.

Its cabin crew trainers will conduct a three-day course that will focus on interpersonal communication, customer handling and showing values such as empathy.

SIA and KTPH are also looking into other areas of collaboration.

These include the application of SIA's crew resource management practices, which are a range of skills to enhance flight safety and reduce human error, to KTPH's operations.

For Mr Yap and his two colleagues who quit SIA to start new full-time jobs at KTPH, they said they had initially decided to take on the temporary care ambassador roles after opportunities to fly as cabin crew dried up following the pandemic.

But they then found meaning in what they were doing, and decided to continue.

Ms Regina Yeoh, 32, who had been working with SIA for eight years, said it took a lot of courage and thought to decide on giving up her love for flying and her lifestyle.

She had initially wanted to pick up skills in caregiving when taking on the role temporarily. But she found that she adapted well and was happy working there.

Ms Sandra Goh, 39, a former cabin crew member for the past 15 years and now a new patient care executive at KTPH, said the passion and dedication shown by the nurses she worked with inspired her career switch.

"I have always had an interest in healthcare but just never had the courage to try anything... but I thought since now there are no flights, I might as well put my time to better use and join something meaningful.

"The whole experience put together has been very worthwhile and fulfilling."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2020, with the headline 'SIA cabin crew members find new calling as patient care officers'. Print Edition | Subscribe