In our ever-expanding Academic Medicine horizon, allied health and nursing colleagues add to the fervor, taking on roles in research and education working hand-in-hand with their doctor counterparts.

"Many AHPs already meet the criteria for adjunct titles, and are performing roles in research and education in Academic Medicine."
– Assoc Prof Alvin Lim, Director, Allied Health Education, Pathology ACP

Academic Medicine has become a buzzword in our campus. The many changes in structure, communication and process have been attributed to the need to improve our patients’ lives through continual advancement of Medicine.  

The doctors were the first to lead the change, uniting in disciplines to form specialty-specific Academic Clinical Programs (ACP) that cut across institutional boundaries, sharing each other’s clinical, research and educational expertise across the entire cluster.

Our allied health and nursing colleagues have also begun their climb up our Academic Medicine pyramid. Associate Professor Alvin Lim, Director of Allied Health Education in the Pathology ACP and Deputy Head, Cytogenetics and Assistant Director of SGH Pathology, thinks it’s the right way to go. 

His team of Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs) plays an active role not only in the training of future MLTs, but also of fellow and resident pathologists, as well as medical students who are on rotations. 

“In any discipline, the doctors are never always working by themselves.   A lot of work is also done by nurses and allied health professionals.   By being a part of an ACP, I want to position ourselves so that there can be some recognition for MLTs and other AHPs for their work in education and research,” he said.   A prerequisite for this is the setting up of education modules that allow his MLTs to teach at the polytechnics.  

And they are already doing it.   A collaborative venture between Singapore Polytechnic and the Cytogenetics labs in SGH and KKH allows future MLTs to receive training in both campuses in the areas of pre- and postnatal cytogenetics and cancer cytogenetics.  

Prof Lim’s vision for his fellow AHPs is clear. Rooting for a place in ACPs gives the profession the potential for growth in formalised career tracks, supported by cross-cluster collaborations and rewarded with adjunct titles from Duke-NUS.

“Many AHPs already meet the criteria for adjunct titles, and are performing roles in research and education in Academic Medicine. An academic appointment is a formal recognition of that role,” asserts Prof Lim. 

In the Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences ACP (EYE ACP), nurses and allied health professionals are proving to be an academic force to be reckoned with.   Recently, the SNEC’s allied health training received a significant boost by getting an international accreditation by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO). 

This means EYE ACP will be able to bring the current SNEC training programmes for AHPs to an international level and link it with the professional development in AHP career paths. SNEC will be launching its pilot course for ophthalmic technicians and assistants in late May, with a joint affiliation with Duke-NUS. The course will also be made available to international participants next year. 

For their nurses, the EYE ACP sees value in pushing for development in the areas of research and education, and Ms Low Siew Ngim, Director of Nursing at SNEC relishes the support.

“We are building our training capabilities, identifying nurses who have passion in teaching and recruiting members of faculty to develop curricula and new educational programmes.  

This allows us to keep pace with the evolving healthcare landscape – an ageing population and policy changes – to continue to provide seamless, standardised eye care across the nation,” she elaborates. 

In the areas of research, nurses from the single-institute ACP work closely with doctors and researchers to conduct a cost utility study of glaucoma patients, and another that compares the efficacy of hand washing versus alcohol rub, both of which have direct impact on patient care.  

Nursing leaders are doing their part to further the role of nurses in the ACP by studying nurse training programmes around the world, and also with influential appointments in international associations. 

Ms Low is currently a council member of the International Ophthalmology Nursing Association, and hopes to tap on her position to further collaborations and benchmark best practices in ophthalmic nursing. 

She explained, “Rather than reinventing the wheel, open-platform sharing and collaborations will accelerate our mutual progress towards better patient care.”