It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is rewarding and dynamic, with new medical technologies breaking ground constantly. Notably, Singapore’s healthcare sector is also internationally-renowned for its sound infrastructure and policies, as well as quality services.
Although Singapore’s healthcare industry was stretched to its limit during the global Covid-19 pandemic, the workforce’s tireless striving to ensure population health shone the spotlight on the many roles available in the sector, as well as future challenges the industry is facing, including an ageing population and rising chronic disease.
Stepping up to make a difference in these areas aren’t the only reasons why you should consider a career in the healthcare industry. In fact, numerous students – up-and-coming doctors, clinicians, researchers and innovators all – from the Duke-NUS Medical School’s (Duke-NUS) 16th cohort let us know their reasons why!
There's an expanded pipeline you can use to enter the industry
Having an academic background in the sciences has never been a necessary requirement to join the healthcare sector – according to Lee Leng Khoong, Bachelor of Accountancy from Nanyang Technological University (NTU): “You don’t necessarily have to be a frontliner – there are plenty of other roles within the healthcare system that need young talents.”
These roles include support care, medication collection and delivery services, as well as financial and ancillary roles. They don’t require medically-related degrees, and make up some 30 per cent of jobs available.
Moreover, roles like physiotherapists and other allied health professionals are also being filled by candidates who don’t have related academic backgrounds, but have undergone the relevant training and acquired the required qualifications.
There are other methods to access this pipeline, as well. For instance, despite studying for her Bachelor of Arts (History) in Yale-NUS College, Sherry Low took the module GMS1000: The Duke-NUS Pre-Med Course. “I also shadowed a few doctors to get a first-hand experience of the work,” she added.
Duke-NUS is also helping to lead the charge in this area, bringing on students from other disciplines through their conditional admissions track. Like Leng Khoong and Sherry, both Sahad Zahir and Suzanne-Kae Rocknathan didn’t come from related disciplines, having graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Engineering Product Development) and Bachelor of Engineering (Engineering Systems and Management) from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), respectively.
Tip: There are also other options available in this expanded pipeline, such as traineeships, attachments and skills training opportunities.
There are many career paths
Caring for patients from all walks of life means that there’s a plethora of medical specialisations available, from disease prevention and control and nutrition, all the way to mental and community healthcare.
On her part, Suzanne-Kae is following her interest into paediatrics as a clinician, researcher and innovator. “Early exposure to interacting with, and working with, children made me realise my love for children and later contributed to my attraction to the human side of medicine,” she said.
Luo Xian Ran, Bachelor of Arts (Molecular and Cell Biology), University of California: Berkeley, on the other hand, wants to contribute to medical research and health education. “As the field of medicine advances, it’ll be an exciting time where more and more questions will be answered and explored, and I would like to be part of this exploration,” she explained. “At the same time, I would also like to help ensure that this advancement benefits more people by increasing accessibility.”
Medical engineering is another field to consider, too – Sahad sees this area as part of the solution to alleviating challenges, such as a lack of control in protecting life. To do so, he’s looking to embrace and build technologies that augment “capabilities and allow us to do more for our patients”.
Other roles you can consider include:
- Laboratory technician
There’s even space for you if you’re squeamish and can’t stand the sight of blood! Options include diagnostic radiology, dermatology and psychiatry.
- Laboratory manager
- Admissions coordinator
- Medical office manager
- Clinic administrator
Tip: No matter which role you’re gunning for, take note that the most important skill set you’ll need is communication and interpersonal skills. This is because healthcare professionals have to communicate clearly and concisely with patients, families and other members of the healthcare team, who will be from different cultures and backgrounds.
You can make a difference in other people's lives
From bringing new life to the world, saving lives, keeping a recovering patient company by their bedside and helping someone take their first steps again after a long period of physical recovery and rehabilitation, there’s no end to how you can touch the lives of both individuals, families and even the wider community.
In fact, just helping people improve their health and lifestyles is already making a difference, an effort Duke-NUS is spearheading, as well. As promoting population health is a big move in relation to the present singular focus of caring for the sick in the present healthcare system, they’ve expanded the role of social prescribing in their Doctor of Medicine Programme (MD) to better train tomorrow’s doctors in directing patients and the community.
“Our new emphasis on social prescribing will expose students to the wide range of social, emotional and practical needs of their patients while providing resources to address them,” Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS, said.
This ability to positively impact lives often allows you to find meaning in your work, too. It might be from the feelings of pride and a job well done when you see a patient through care and to recovery, or even the adrenaline rush and high levels of focus needed in the emergency room.
In the case of Dhakshenya Ardhithy Dhinagaran, Doctor of Philosophy (Health Informatics), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), it’s coming to understand health conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease, and helping patients navigate them at their most vulnerable. “Being able to contribute in this way made me feel like I’d be doing something very meaningful with my life,” she said.
Alternatively, it could be like how Nadia Bte Mohd Hamzah, Bachelor of Science (Life Sciences) from the National University of Singapore (NUS), put it: “To me, healthcare is about compassionate service to others with the intention of striving for the best health outcomes for each person – and I personally find this most meaningful in a career.”
Tip: Finding meaning in your work might look like a small part of your working life, but the fact is that, if you don’t find your work rewarding, you might find yourself struggling with engagement and burnout. This can easily explode into a larger problem, especially when you factor in the number of hours you spend at work.
You have an interest
Leng Khoong’s drive to search for greater care in the future is fuelled by her diagnosis of an autoimmune condition. Nadia, on the other hand, found her calling when she watched a documentary on Doctors Without Borders as a child. Caring for a sick loved one sparked a keen interest in science and medical research in Dhakshenya.
“I understood the helplessness a lot of caregivers may face, along with the dejection which comes with not really understanding what’s going on and not knowing how you can help and behave in the situation to ameliorate the issue,” Dhakshenya added.
In other words, as long as you’re inspired by the healthcare industry, and you’re willing to work towards your goal of making an impact, you should consider pursuing a career in healthcare.
“Hold on to your reasons for wanting to join this industry, because those reasons will keep you grounded and motivated even when the going gets tough,” Suzanne advised.
There's high demand
With new integrated healthcare facilities, polyclinics and general and community hospitals in line to further develop Singapore’s healthcare system and boost medical tourism, there’s great demand for a future-ready workforce, and job security to match.
At present, the Ministry of Health is still consistently expanding the workforce. They had already been increasing the annual inflow of nurses and allied health professionals, as seen from the 1,900 in 2018, to 2,300 in 2020.
Tip: Singapore’s healthcare market is slated to hit $49.4 billion by 2029, and will largely be driven by rising government spending and population consumption.
It’s an exciting time to be part of Singapore’s healthcare industry, as it continues to push a paradigm shift into a more community-based healthcare system. So, if you’re truly interested in the sector, for the reasons listed above and more, plan your career journey, consider seeking out a mentor, or volunteer to gain some experience, and take a leap of faith!