Ai Ling loves her job
that aids diagnosis,
and is constantly
looking ways to
improve her work
to make it safer and
better for patients.
(SGH) opened an
clinic in 2012, Senior Principal
Radiographer Heng Ai Ling
was put in charge. It was in the
Camden Medical Centre, tucked
away in a leafy and secluded
corner of the Tanglin area.
It was there that Ms Heng
developed an interest in
“Being a new service centre,
the satellite clinic offered many
opportunities for improvement.
We had patients who did not
know how to get to Camden and were frequently late for their
appointments. So my first project
was to create a map with directions
so that they were able to locate the
centre correctly,” said Ms Heng.
Today — and many winning
projects later — Ms Heng leads
colleagues at the Division of
Radiological Sciences in quality
innovation (QI), an area that
hospital staff are encouraged to
take part in to improve protocols
and patient safety, and reduce
waste. For instance, she is currently
working on developing an ultraviolet
chamber to disinfect a positioning
aid used to keep patients still
while undergoing x-ray scans. This
would allow more patients to be
quickly and safely scanned during
the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her interest in this area
might have stemmed from a
desire “to be at the forefront of
using medical equipment to help
diagnose patients’ conditions”.
Ms Heng joined SGH’s Department
of Diagnostic Radiology
after getting her Diploma in
Radiography from Nanyang
Polytechnic in 1998.
“As a radiographer, you learn
how to produce images that aid
in the diagnosis of a patient. It
is especially rewarding when the
diagnosis that you helped with
leads to proper treatment for the
patient,” she said.
Ultrasound scans, which Ms Heng
specialises in, are important during
the pandemic to detect deep vein
thrombosis, which is common
among COVID-19 patients.
For her efforts in improvement
projects, Ms Heng was given
the opportunity to present at
overseas conferences. In Madrid,
she presented her research on
reducing patients’ fasting time before their gall bladder
and renal arteries
From the findings, the
department has cut the
fasting time from seven
hours to five.
Ms Heng also
co-authored a study on how
the pandemic affected her
peers. It led to two initiatives,
Braveheart and Peers at Work,
for staff to express or share
their feelings and thoughts during
“It is like a communications
session to to voice out areas of
concern to the management. At
radiography, we also promoted
Joy at Work, for staff to send their
colleagues handwritten notes of
appreciation and support,”
said Ms Heng.
As a Malaysian, she understands
the needs and worries of her
fellow foreign colleagues at this
time. Her parents used to visit her
from Johor frequently, but they
have not seen each other since
the pandemic started. However,
her husband, two sisters and their
husbands are here. Coincidentally,
they are also healthcare workers
in other Singapore hospitals.
Ms Heng is also a keen
researcher and sits on her
division’s serious reportable events
committee. Work on the latter is
especially time-consuming, she
said, as she has to trawl through
different statistics to look for
trends and causes of incidents.
“I usually do these in my own
time. I set short-term priorities
and do one thing at a time,”
She hopes for more opportunities
to work with other colleagues
within the SingHealth family.
“In QI, we work on projects to
improve our own department.
But other hospitals may be
working on similar projects or are
already doing a good job in that
area, so if we can standardise
best practices, that would be
good,” she said.
To recharge, the Japanophile
used to visit the land of the rising
sun at least twice every year. With
the pandemic, however, she has
had to be content with eating her
favourite sushi and other Japanese
food in Singapore.
“I love the Japanese culture.
Their omotenashi service
standards translate to ‘every
service is from the bottom of
the heart’, and this is similar to
SingHealth’s mission of ‘Patients
at the Heart of All We Do’,”
said Ms Heng.
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