Bernard Lim switched from mechatronics engineering to processing surgical instruments in hospital. The young father then juggled work and parenthood to earn a degree as he aspires to progress in his career.

After 12 years of working at SGH as an instrument technician, Bernard Lim decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management. He paid his own way and attended online and in-person classes at night. This one year programme taught him how to manage people and performance. “I wanted to upgrade myself to stay relevant in the industry,” says Bernard, Senior Instrument Technician at the Sterile Supplies Unit (SSU).

He joined SSU after National Service. It was the first job for the Nanyang Polytechnic Mechatronic Engineering Diploma graduate. Bernard says, “I saw the ad in Jobstreet and found the position interesting because it seemed different from other jobs. Also, I watched a local hospital drama and felt that it would be meaningful to work in a hospital.”

As an instrument technician, Bernard checks, washes, packs, sterilises and stores instruments used for surgery and procedures. SSU processes 25,000 pieces of surgical instruments each month, supporting the nurses who run the 43 Major Operating Theatres and procedure rooms at SGH.

Bernard plays an important role as he ensures the surgical tools are cleaned properly so that patients undergoing surgery or procedure stay safe.

Recognising his potential, SGH sponsored him for a one-year online course by Purdue University in the US to enhance his knowledge in sterile processing. Through the Certified Registered Central Service Technician course, he learnt the latest in the cleaning and disinfection of instruments. “I was very happy because after the course, I could teach my colleagues what I know, and reinforce my knowledge in the process of training others,” says Bernard.

Eager to help, Bernard readily takes on projects to help the department improve work processes. For example, concerned that many of the instrument sets were very heavy, Bernard took part in a project to reduce the weight to make work safer for everyone. It was no surprise that when SingHealth set up the inaugural Nursing Care Support Champion Award, Bernard was one of the SGH colleagues to win the Champion award. 

Bernard receiving his SingHealth Nursing Care Support Champion Award on 22 Aug 2023

His role is not without challenges. “The instruments required for surgery or procedure are washed, checked, and packed into sets. There could be more than 30 types of instruments in a complex set - SSU has an online pictorial guide with an accompanying list of instruments for me to follow - so I have to really focus,” says Bernard who packs about 40 sets a day.

SSU operates 24 hours, every day, to support emergency surgeries as well as scheduled ones. Working shift, and on weekends and public holidays, was a challenge for the young father. 

“The irregular working hours made it hard for my wife and I when we first had our baby five years ago,” says Bernard.

“I was able to cope because my supervisors were understanding and supportive. They assigned me the shifts that enabled me to look after my new-born baby at night,” says Bernard whose wife is also working. 

Bernard just graduated in May with First Class Honours for his degree in Healthcare Management by Teesside University in the UK. “I hope to do more for my department and advance in my career so that I can be a good role model for my son,” smiles Bernard.

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