SERVING ice cream was Vietnamborn Le Ho Thu Huong’s first job in Singapore, and a customer was so impressed by her service that she offered her the post of patient services associate (PSA) in Changi General Hospital (CGH).
Ms Huong, then a Singapore permanent resident, later found out that the customer was the head of Specialist Clinics Operations at CGH.
With her family’s support, Ms Huong decided to try her hand at a new career and joined CGH in 2003.
PSAs provide customer service and administrative support in CGH’s Specialist Outpatient Clinics.
They register patients, collect payments, schedule appointments and offer advice on hospital charges and services.
They also conduct basic patient assessments such as height, weight and temperature, and assist doctors in the consultation rooms.
The Specialist Clinics Operations department is 200-strong.
In over 14 years with CGH, Ms Huong has risen through the ranks to become the supervisor of a 35-strong team.
The 37-year-old plans the team’s deployment, assists with dissemination of information to the Surgical Clinic Team and helps out with daily operations, such as floor support for the team and handling patient feedback.
She also participates in PSA interviews and selection.
Ms Huong, who is now a Singapore citizen, loves her job as she gets to interact with people from all walks of life.
But serving patients can be challenging, she says.
She explains: “Some patients expect too much of us and are not easy to manage. When they reject our explanations and alternative options, we have to escalate the issue.
“It is important for PSAs to stay positive and be receptive and adaptable to new initiatives. You must have a passion to serve both your patients and colleagues.”
Being meticulous is also crucial as PSAs handle confidential patient information.
Ms Huong learnt this the hard way in her first month on the job. She had been put on runner’s duty, which meant that she had to account for all patient medical records.
One day, she discovered that a patient’s case note had gone missing. The team searched high and low for it but to no avail.
Her supervisor warned her that they would have to make a police report the next day if the case note could not be found.
Ms Huong spent that night sleepless, worrying about the outcome.
To her relief, she was informed by a nurse the next day that a doctor had been using the case note; he had forgotten to inform her about it.
She says: “That incident made me realise that our actions impact others.
“I became more motivated to do my job to the best of my abilities.”
Ms Huong feels that she has grown professionally through her career with CGH.
Last year, the hospital revised the PSA career development path (CDP) and rolled out a new development framework to chart their learning and progression.
Through the new CDP, Ms Huong was awarded a formal education sponsorship to pursue a part-time Diploma in Health Services Management at Kaplan this year.
More training programmes are also available for PSAs, such as the WSQ Higher Certificate in Healthcare Support (Administrative Support), which deepens their competencies in performing administrative duties and basic patient care.
Ms Huong says: “Being a PSA is very challenging but it is also very meaningful as you get to help others. “You will start to treasure the people and things around you, and not take anything for granted.”