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On the ground with our SIA PCAs

Our SIA turned PCA serving meals to a patient

“Coffee or Tea?” is one common phrase you can hear both onboard a flight and in the Sengkang Community Hospital (SKCH) wards. Except, the answer in the wards is often “Milo”, which many of our elderly patients prefer warm, to go with their midday snack of biscuits or sponge cakes.

Wang Yuyan and Quek Lijun are both Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew currently attached to SKCH as Patient Care Ambassadors (PCAs) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pair, along with 18 other cabin crew members, had gone through a five-day training programme conducted by our nurses earlier in July, before being attached to various SKCH wards to assist in caring for patients.

This change in job scope and workplace was akin to a new beginning for them.

Describing it as 'a bit of a culture shock', Yuyan faced some difficulties in her initial days adapting to a vastly different work environment. Her biggest challenge was caring for elderly patients with dementia who could often be uncommunicative – something which her fellow cabin crew turned PCA Lijun can attest to.

Luckily, our SKCH nurses are there to provide guidance to the PCAs along the way, in matters such as patient care or handling visitor requests.


PCA Yuyan guiding a patient on a coloring activity

One of the ward leaders, Senior Staff Nurse Cao Huimei was initially concerned if the SIA PCAs could adjust and work with patients. However, the care, concern, and compassion displayed by the PCAs soon laid her concerns to rest.

"It has been a delightful experience to work alongside them," Huimei states, "their cheerful and bubbly personalities often brighten up the wards."

Both Yuyan and Lijun credit their cabin crew training and experience as a huge factor in helping them adjust to their new role as PCAs. While there is an added healthcare component, Lijun was quick to point out the many similarities between the two service-oriented roles – such as the daily meal service – except, this time for patients!

For Yuyan, she is thankful for her cabin crew background, which has helped her develop a keen sense of awareness for the needs of those around her. This skill has come in handy in the wards as she often encounter elderly patients who have difficulties communicating or expressing themselves.

Her strong rapport with patients is clear, from the easy way she banters with them about their day, to how she encourages them to participate in activities like Bingo and Rummy.

"I feel very fortunate to be given this opportunity to serve and give back to the community. It has been truly a rewarding experience to be able to bring some kind of care and comfort to the patients with our presence and company," shared Lijun.

Almost five months into their stint, the SIA PCAs have become familiar and comforting faces for the staff and patients in the wards. For Yuyan, many of the staff and patients have become a 'second family' to her.

With the skies being out of reach for the time being, both Yuyan and Lijun are glad for the opportunity to continue on as PCAs, as they have extended their initial 3-month attachment together with many of their fellow cabin crew.

As Yuyan positively puts it: "Every day is a new learning experience. The past few months have flown by and I feel that I have learnt something new almost every day. Even then, I feel that there is more that I can learn!"

Having brought their experience as cabin crew to the table, Yuyan and Lijun also see this as an opportunity to further improve themselves. The medical and nursing knowledge she has gained, Lijun feels, will be invaluable. Meanwhile, Yuyan has picked up a smattering of phrases in Malay and other Chinese dialects from her conversations with patients – and is looking forward to utilising them when she takes to the skies once more.