​Sandra Aw had just taken charge of Visitor Services when COVID-19 hit. She shares how she had to learn the ropes fast and lead her frontline crew to effect strict visitor policies

“Our visitor policies were revised almost every day at the start of COVID-19. I couldn’t just stay in the back office and relay the policies for the ground staff to implement. The registration counter crew needed somebody to lead and instruct them. Things were changing so fast on the ground; decisions had to be made quickly. So I stepped out into frontline operations,” says Sandra Aw, who oversees Visitor Services.

A leader in the making

The young Senior Executive has obviously also stepped up. “I know that my crew relies on me for direction. The only connection they have with the management is me. So they look to me for instructions and solutions to problems that they encounter at the frontline.

I tap on roll call sessions to hear from my crew the challenges that they face and how they handle such scenarios. This helps me gauge how well they are coping with the policies so that I can give feedback to management. Whilst we cannot tweak the policies, we can tweak the way our crew responds,” shares a very wise Sandra.

Sandra uses daily roll call for trouble-shooting with her Visitor Registration crew

Scaling a steep learning curve and getting buy-in

"I've been in this role, planning and overseeing Visitor Services, for only eight months. My ‘peacetime’ work encompasses more planning and administrative duties. Prior to this, I was with Division of Organisation Planning & Performance. Not only was I new to Visitor Services, I was also  working with an outsourced partner for the first time. On top of that, the vendor was recently appointed, so the crew was new to SGH as well, making it a triple whammy. Starting from scratch, I had to learn faster than them about workflows and practices so that I can advise them. Then COVID-19 hit.

The vendor providing Visitor Registration crew was newly appointed to SGH only a few months ago 

Initially - because I had just joined Visitor Services - it was difficult for me to tell some of the more experienced crew members what to do. I managed to convince them by explaining the rationale behind the policies so that they understood why they had to do certain things. For example, our ward visitor policy was revised to two designated visitors only to reduce the possibility of cross infection amongst the public and patients.

NOKs caught unaware by the tightened Visitor Policy formed long queues at Registration the weekend after DORSCON Orange

I survive by tapping on the wisdom of veterans who had been through SARS and H1N1 to come up with solutions for my ground staff. And I’m most grateful to my crew for being so resilient and adaptable - taking all the constant changes in their stride,” says Sandra. 

Sandra shares more about her Visitor Services role - watch the video (internet access required)


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