By Elisa Arumugam, SGH Occupational Therapist

  • Lack of local population studies
  • SGH OT Department starting study to find out how patients re-integrate into society
  • Qualitative research allows for streamlined interventions for patients

Can Quality of Life be measured in numbers? What about feelings and emotions like joy, sadness, relief, frustration, success? 

Symptoms like pain are often rated on a scale represented by numbers, but are these reflective of the range of experiences we are going through at that moment? 

Successful community reintegration, the meaning of dying, how a person wants to live their last days are all questions that are not necessarily measurable in numbers and figures.

As an occupational therapist, I am interested to find out more about the lived experience of another person and how it impacts on the kind of interventions we provide.

Through qualitative research, I hope to answer questions like ‘What is a person’s experience when they have to live with a chronic condition like diabetes, and how would that affect the way they plan and carry out their day to day life?’, ‘What is the impact of returning to “real-world” living after being in hospital from a stroke and receiving intensive rehabilitation?’, or ‘How does a person react to spend their final weeks?’

These questions, matched with Singapore’s unique blend of cultural and societal norms, creates a conducive environment where applying results from my studies can lead to many positive changes.

With a majority of studies based on populations from other countries, the need for qualitative research in the Singapore context becomes greater. What happens to our patients when they return to the community after our care?

We get involved in their care, share their worries and play a part in their recovery, but beyond the hospital walls their experience of return to the community with newly learnt skills is largely unknown.

The Occupational Therapy department at SGH, wants to change that by starting a study to explore how these patients re-integrate.

Through the results of this qualitative research, we hope to identify the factors that limit or enable this process of being back in the community after hospitalisation.

This will in turn help us understand how we can improve our intervention to better prepare our clients to returning to their communities despite their disabilities.

We can also then address the barriers faced by these group of clients at an overall healthcare systems level, by sharing the results of this study with other therapists and organisations in Singapore, reducing the burden on welfare or social support to get around from place to place, and increasing the quality of life of a person with disability.

When we are working with people, not merely numbers, qualitative research helps us to better understand this world of health, healthcare, and those who live with a disease or disability.

With qualitative research, we can streamline our interventions to be more person centered and to enable a better future for our patients.