Oct 29, 2013

    There's always something you can learn from patients

    Social work is not as heartrending as some may think.

    In fact, it can be meaningful and offer useful life lessons, says Ms Lynnette Ng, 26, the youngest winner of the annual Promising Social Worker Award. The medical social worker from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital tells My Paper why she thinks her career is cool.

    What inspired you to become a medical social worker?

    Since I was young, I've always thought that making a difference in people's lives is important. It was also cool to see (social workers) on TV.

    I feel that each individual has his own problems to deal with in life - that's inevitable. Illnesses compound these problems, and it's important to help patients and their families learn to cope.

    What is the most satisfying part of your job?

    I think it's the journey with our patients.

    When we first meet them, they may be feeling sad or helpless, but we offer our knowledge and guide them. Seeing them live life meaningfully and becoming empowered - that's the most satisfying part.

    What's your most memorable experience as a social worker?

    There was this man who was in his 50s and was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer. He exhibited all stages of the Kubler-Ross model of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance).

    One evening, (a colleague and I) bought beer for him as he loves beer. We told him that we were toasting to him, and toasting to fate that we got to know each other. He was very, very happy, and managed to drink two cups. A few days later, he died.

    Sometimes, we feel quite helpless and we don't know what to say to people who are in their last stage of life. What helps is our respectful presence, being able to sit with them through their pain.

    Any advice for aspiring social workers?

    People think that being in social work, seeing so much sadness, will cause you to go home very depressed and sad. That's not true. There's always something you can learn from (the patients).

    Follow your heart. It's important to follow your passion and do what brings meaning to you and others.