“I like to tell people I work as an
‘MSW’ – and the immediate reply is usually a ‘Huh? Mao Shan Wang durian?’”
May Heap, Senior Medical Social Worker at Sengkang
Community Hospital (SKCH) is quick to correct them afterwards with a laugh –
MSW actually stands for Medical Social Worker, which May has been working as
for the past 11 years.
May started her career in social work as a
Social Work Assistant in Changi General Hospital (CGH) – within a year, she was
certain that medical social work was her calling. Seeing patients struggle to
cope with their conditions, May found it fulfilling to walk with them through
their recovery journey, working to provide a helping hand (or listening ear)
when they needed it most.
She took up additional classes to further
her studies in social work, and completed her internship with CGH, where she
was subsequently assigned to the General Medicine team as a full-time MSW.
Since then, she has embraced her role, with 10 years clocked at CGH and going
over a year strong at SingHealth Community Hospitals (SCH) where she is now.
Despite the differences between an acute
and community hospital, May’s duties towards her patients have not differed
much. As an MSW, she is with a patient from Day One of their admission.
When a patient is first admitted, May steps
in, helping them to understand their condition by counselling them about their
illness or disease. MSWs also work closely with the patient’s family to address
issues such as care arrangement, financial matters, and psychosocial support
throughout a patient’s recovery journey in SCH.
At SCH, May’s work takes her through a
close working relationship with SCH’s multi-disciplinary teams, working with doctors,
nurses, therapists and other allied health professionals to facilitate a
patient’s care and eventual discharge.
Her relationship with a patient and their
family, however, does not end at discharge, as she also helps them transit from
the hospital back into the community post-discharge.
Journeying with patients and their families
through their tough times is clearly not a smooth sailing road, as one can
imagine. May acknowledges the need to remain emotionally strong herself, in
order to remain a pillar of support for her patients and their families when
they need her most.
“It is difficult to not let their grief
affect you,” May admits, when speaking of providing psychosocial support and
counselling for grieving individuals.
The ups and downs are all part of the job,
as May firmly believes, sticking by her career choice.
“I find it meaningful and fulfilling to
work with patients, and help them to understand and cope with their
Her role as a MSW is invaluable in the
recovery journey of all patients, be it in an acute or community hospital
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