With a combined 64 years of teaching, three healthcare educators from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) share their clinical, allied health and nursing experiences in mentoring and shaping the next generation of healthcare professionals.
An Academic Medical Centre, KKH is a major teaching hospital for Duke-NUS Medical School, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. The hospital runs the largest specialist training programmes for Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Paediatrics in Singapore, and is nationally recognised for expertise and innovation in education and training for healthcare professionals.
To cure sometimes, to relieve often and to comfort always|
Professor Phua Kong Boo
Emeritus Consultant, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Service, KKH
“As vital as skill, is the heart of a clinician. What we can diagnose and treat, we must not miss. But even where there is yet no cure, our duty to empathise with and provide relief to the patient and family remains.”
About Professor Phua Kong Boo:
A veteran paediatric gastroenterologist,
Professor Phua Kong Boo has led vaccine research into rotavirus, which can cause diarrhoea and intestinal problems in babies and young children.
Prof Phua served as the inaugural Education Director of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Paediatrics Academic Clinical Programme – which established the Phua Kong Boo Clinician Educator Faculty Development Fund in 2019 to equip medical professionals with teaching skills.
“We do not forget the ones who have taught us. Prof Phua has taught us persistence and compassion, and we continue to emulate his patience, care and humility as we too, care for our own patients.”
Associate Professor Thoon Koh Cheng, Head and Senior Consultant, Infectious Disease Service, KKH
Prof Phua: “I have taught for more than 45 years, beginning as a Medical Officer at Singapore General Hospital and was appointed a Clinical Teacher by University of Singapore in 1972.
My own teacher, the late Professor Wong Hock Boon, was known as the ‘walking paediatric encyclopaedia’. He was selfless in imparting his knowledge; always open to speak with us and take any questions we had. From Prof Wong, I learned that it is important to be approachable and patient. Point out to students, the important signs a patient presents with and the logical assessment to come to the appropriate conclusion.
We learn the most when we are with the patient. Textbooks and technology – no matter how advanced – cannot fully teach the nuanced skills of observing patient, obtaining comprehensive history, completing physical examination and communicating with the patient or caregiver effectively and empathetically. These require repeated, hands-on practice under the wing of a more experienced senior. Always keep in mind that each patient is unique, and wants to be treated holistically and humanely, and not as a representative of a particular complaint.
As vital as skill, is the heart of a clinician. A saying by William Osler goes: To cure sometimes, to relieve often and to comfort always. What we can diagnose and treat, we must not miss. But even where there is yet no cure, our duty to empathise with and provide relief to the patient and family remains.
As we mentor, we should also pass on the skills and the correct attitude. I feel good when I see younger doctors advance to greater heights and achieve far more than myself. Teach your students to empathise with others’ perspectives – even if these run counter to their own – and how to approach others with knowledge, confidence and compassion, and they will blossom into independence.”
Nurture the spirit of learning; inculcate values to develop resilience|
Dr Lois Teo
Head and Senior Principal Psychologist, Psychology Service, KKH
“While no one can be the saviour of the world, we can always lend a supporting hand and listening ear to someone in need. When we model generosity in our lives, our students may do the same for others.”
About Dr Lois Teo:
Dr Lois Teo leads and works alongside a team of psychologists who provide psychological support for women, children and families experiencing complex behavioural, emotional and mental health difficulties.
An Adjunct Associate Professor (Professional), James Cook University Singapore (JCU), Dr Teo formalised a clinical collaboration between KKH and JCU for increased learning opportunities for clinical psychology post-graduate students. She further initiated the first structured Undergraduate Student Observation Programme for psychology students at KKH.
“Dr Teo’s supervision is enriching as I can draw from her expertise, experience and viewpoints of providing care to both adult and paediatric patients. Dr Teo is relatable and candidly shares her challenges and how she overcomes these. This reassures and guides me towards becoming better at my practice.”
Ms Charlotte Song, Psychologist, Psychology Service, KKH
Dr Teo: “My family taught me that life is not just about oneself. While none of us can be the saviour of the world, we can however always lend a supporting hand and listening ear to someone in need. When we model generosity in our lives, our students may do the same for others.
Over 10 years of providing clinical supervision and career guidance to psychologists and students, I have found that it is key to nurture the spirit of learning within a person, and help them to find meaning in what they are committed to in their area of specialty. In order to develop resilience, we should inculcate in them values, and help them to think flexibly with empathy and with evidence-based research.
The learning journey of being an educator, while enjoyable and meaningful, can also be a demanding and complex affair. Set aside time for personal reflection, seek out personal supervision, keep up to date with best practices, be open to feedback and be aware of your own self-care needs and limits – so as to be a more effective and impactful educator and individual.
I am blessed to have had supervisors who mentored me and willingly shared their professional skills, knowledge and expertise. Having received nurturing and thought-provoking supervision that positively challenged me, I hope to likewise be a positive role model to others.
I find it especially rewarding when a student is finally able to have a breakthrough and overcome longstanding or complex obstacles in their own learning journey. It is encouraging, humbling, heart-warming and inspiring for me to see the passion and commitment of our younger generation.”
Challenges and obstacles are but stepping stones to improve us|
Mariammah D/O Paramasilvam
Nurse Clinician, Ward 75, KKH
“The role of an educator is essential in shaping the skills and career paths of our future nurses. Each challenge and obstacle is but a stepping stone to improve us; do not give up!”
About Mariammah D/O Paramasilvam:
A passionate Clinical Instructor, paediatric Nurse Clinician, Mariammah D/O Paramasilvam teaches and guides new nurses, and final-year nursing students at KKH for specialised paediatric postings.
Mariammah discovered her desire to be an educator after completing a training course in 2012. She further pursued a Post-graduate Degree in Higher Education for professional development and to acquire teaching best practices.
“Sister Mariammah’s coaching, and her calm and collected demeanour gives me the confidence to learn and ask questions in a safe environment. She provides clear guidance that I can easily understand. When I face difficult situations, she supports me and always has my back. ”
Emelyn Manipon Endozo, Staff Nurse, Ward 75, KKH
Mariammah: “The most challenging aspect of teaching is helping students to be motivated to learn. Nursing students can be fearful when performing care on delicate patients, and when facing unfamiliar situations. They need a supportive learning environment and guidance to allay anxiety and motivate them to do better.
To provide a beneficial learning experience, I seek to identify my students’ areas of strengths and weaknesses, when they are uncertain; what they are afraid of. This requires patience, time and undivided attention. As their instructor, I create a safe space for them to learn and develop confidence by remaining calm and being a good listener, even in a stressful situation.
The use of technology has transformed modern healthcare and nursing education. To help nursing students adopt the use of informatics technology almost as a second nature, I intentionally integrate the use of e-learning modules and platforms throughout their learning journey.
Teaching is itself a rewarding experience; I have learned many valuable lessons from my students, not least to be experimental in my approach to life and relating with others. Looking at the cards and tokens of appreciation gifted by ex-students never fails to warm my heart and bring back beautiful memories of the meaningful experiences we shared.
The role of an educator is essential in shaping the skills and career paths of our future nurses. Each challenge and obstacle is but a stepping stone to improve us; do not give up!