An opportunity to observe radiographers in action while still in junior college catalysed Mr Ong Yi Xiong’s decision to make radiography his life’s work.

He took up the MOH Holdings’ Health Science Scholarship to study Diagnostic Radiography at London South Bank University and received a Bachelor of Science with first class honours in 2007. The scholarship is now known as Healthcare Merit Scholarship. MOH Holdings is the holding company of Singapore’s public healthcare clusters.

After completing his six-year bond, Mr Ong took on another sponsorship. This time, it was from Changi General Hospital (CGH), where he has worked since graduation, for a Master of Science in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Clear focus
Diagnostic radiographers use machines to produce images of the body’s interior, which are then used to identify illness or injury. Such images include X-rays, which new radiographers spend their first years on the job perfecting. They then progress to more advanced imaging techniques such as computed tomography, ultrasound, angiography and MRI, which Mr Ong specialises in.

To do such work requires highly specialised training, with few alternatives of employment outside the healthcare setting. “I would have to work as a diagnostic radiographer upon graduation anyway, regardless of being bonded,” he says.

While a six-year bond may seem daunting to some, Mr Ong had a clear idea of what his profession entailed right from the start, and was attracted to how disgnostic radiography was “equal parts technology-based and people-oriented”.

“The bond kept me focused on developing my career, as I knew I would not be changing jobs any time soon and was not distracted by second-guessing my decision to take this scholarship,” he adds.

“Besides, six years is a reasonable time to achieve job proficiency, as there are many technical aspects that can only be mastered through daily work experience.”

The right choice
In addition to enjoying cosmopolitan London’s cultural offerings and the many friendships he made during his studies, Mr Ong was able to put the knowledge gained in the classroom quickly into practice, as a large part of his course was devoted to clinical attachments in hospitals.

“Clinical attachments built confidence in my technical skills, and were good practice for communicating with different types of patients,” says Mr Ong, who has worked in two London hospitals, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital.

The 33-year-old has now spent nine years at CGH. Mr Ong says: “I am fortunate to have a job with a great working environment, with lots of scope and opportunities to develop professionally.”

The hospital supports staff professional development, sending them for courses and conferences to update their clinical skills and develop their leadership abilites.

“Continuous learning is important to remaining relevant in diagnostic radiography, as the profession is heavily reliant on technology which is constantly advancing,” he says.

The appreciation of patients also adds to the sense of purpose he gets from his work. Once off-duty, he was stopped on the streets by the daughter of a former patient who wanted to thank him for the care the healthcare team had provided.

“This episode was a reminder that our actions are imprinted on every person we encounter in the course of our work,” he says.

To do their job well, Mr Ong says that healthcare professionals need to be conscientious and compassionate.

“Patient safety checks and infection control measures quickly get repetitive with high patient volumes. The temptation to cut corners, or simply plain carelessness, can have tragic consequences,” he says.

Likewise, high patient volumes can wear down healthcare workers.

“Healthcare becomes meaningless if the caregiver forgets that a fellow human being is at the receiving end of his ministrations,” he adds.

For those thinking of joining the healthcare industry, Mr Ong suggests that they do as he did while in school — seek out opportunties to observe the professionals at work, such as through an internship.

“Speak to someone who has applied for a similar scholarship. An informed decision is the best deterrent against regret,” he says.