Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth
Professor Ian Curran, Vice-Dean, Education, Duke-NUS Medical School
Assoc Prof Marianne Ong, Ms Kirsty Freeman – Co-organising Chairpersons of the Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good morning to all. It is my pleasure to join you today at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Education Conference. This year’s theme of ‘Reinvigorating Healthcare Education: Connecting Hearts, Cultivating Minds’, is a timely one as we transit to living with COVID-19. As a community of healthcare educators, we have learned many precious lessons from the pandemic, which have led to innovative ways to shape and strengthen teaching and learning to achieve learning outcomes.
ADAPTING SWIFTLY TO COVID-19
2. Education was disrupted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person classes and on-site clinical trainings came to an abrupt stop, with the fear and uncertainty during the pandemic. This caused an acute sense of displacement and anxiety felt by educators and students alike. Despite the rapidly evolving circumstances, everyone adapted swiftly – a testament to the resilience and grit that we have. Using technology and innovative techniques to ensure continuity of healthcare service delivery and healthcare education. It has been a challenging two and a half years, and I thank each and every one of you for working tirelessly and dedicating yourselves to the larger goals of our healthcare community.
3. We now need to forge ahead: to reconnect, refocus and reignite our purpose in healthcare education and training, and to adapt to an accelerated pace of technology development and new focus areas in the healthcare landscape.
INSIGHTS FROM COVID-19 ABOUT COMPETENCIES OF HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS
4. I would like to highlight two insights gleaned from the pandemic as they impact healthcare education for our professionals.
5. First, the need to evolve to practise at the apex of their potential, and at the same time, maintain and retain confidence and ability to deliver on foundational competencies. That was a key capability and how we pivoted and adapted many of our clinical services. Some specialists working on niche areas for many years had to draw on foundational competencies in order to keep other services running. The impact for us, in terms of designing trainings and education system, is that we need to build up confidence in dealing with general medical conditions even as continue to develop excellence in niche areas. For instance, we have witnessed how healthcare professionals were deployed to provide medical support for dormitory migrant workers or deployed into isolation wards and intensive care units.
6. Secondly, we need to recognise that there are several additional competencies, not commonly taught in traditional medical school curriculum, which are extremely useful in helping us deal with the pandemic. Some examples are skills associated with data analytics. This is not something that is traditionally being taught and seen as a core foundation competency across the healthcare profession. However, it became clear that we needed those skills, not just for people in policy or leadership positions, but across the entire supply chain of healthcare service delivery. The competencies and skills around communicable diseases is another example. It is no longer something that only public health professionals need to practise on a day-to-day basis. These will impact how healthcare professionals are taught and trained and have their competencies measures. These are essential skills to support our society and nation in times of crises like a pandemic.
LEVERAGING ON INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY IN IMPROVING HEALTHCARE EDUCATION
7. The pandemic has also taught us the importance of being agile to change so that we can continue to stay relevant. Today, healthcare education is evolving at a faster pace than ever, and indeed, the future of classroom technology holds infinite possibilities for educators.
8. During the pandemic, virtual lectures and eLearning replaced most in-person lectures and teaching to minimise face-to-face interactions. The adoption of video conferencing applications and online learning capabilities was unprecedented. More than 2,000 new online courses were created on the SingHealth eLearning platform, to equip more than 33,000 healthcare professionals across different domains with essential knowledge and skills.
9. One of the biggest challenges faced in virtual settings is the need for social interactions between educators and learners. To tackle this issue, SingHealth began building the Virtual Classroom system right here at The Academia. The Virtual Classroom aims to enable SingHealth Duke-NUS educators to connect and engage with participants more effectively in a virtual setting, by allowing educators a ‘bird’s-eye’ view of all participants simultaneously, of up to a class size of 48 participants. The virtual participants can also see, engage and have synchronous communications with one another freely, making learning and engagement much richer.
10. It is encouraging that educators are increasingly becoming more comfortable with utilising new technology tools to augment the education experience. For instance, there is an increase in adoption and the use of virtual reality and mixed reality in teaching and learning by the educators from the medical schools and hospitals. This provides an opportunity for the learners to apply their knowledge and hone their skills in a safe environment, as some of these tasks have a narrow margin for error in a real-life setting.
BUILDING UP OUR PRIMARY AND COMMUNITY CARE WORKFORCE TO SUPPORT NATION’S INITIATIVES TOWARDS HEALTHIER SG
11. With the national move towards Healthier SG to provide holistic care for our population and to prevent the onset and complications of chronic diseases, it is essential that we keep abreast of the focus areas of Healthier SG and ensure the training remains relevant.
12. First, there will be greater emphasis on preventive care. As general practitioners (GPs) are the first touchpoints with individuals who encounter an initial health episode, they are well placed to encourage the take-up of preventive care activities. Their advice and management of potentially significant health conditions are critical to enable patients to take ownership of their health by cultivating good lifestyle habits.
13. Second, the interface between social and clinical matters. GPs will be able to take care of patients enrolled with them and address not just the immediate medical problems, but also the social determinants that affect health outcomes of their patients. GPs will also work closely with community partners and tap on community activities as part of a preventive care plan to better support patients. This also calls for a greater emphasis on interprofessional education to better train healthcare professionals to work effectively in such highly collaborative settings.
14. In response to the national strategies, it is critical for us to rethink what our healthcare education, from medical school programmes to postgraduate specialist training, should look like.
15. For example, the Duke-NUS’ MD programme increased their Family Medicine curriculum from four weeks to nine weeks.
16. We also recognise the expanding role that the GPs play in the public health system. Hence, it is paramount to ensure that high quality training opportunities are also available for the GPs. Since 2021, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Family Medicine Academic Clinical Programme (ACP) has also extended its regular teaching sessions for family physicians to include GPs. These training sessions include SingHealth Polyclinics Family Medicine teaching rounds, SingHealth DUKE-NUS Family Medicine ACP Medical Humanities events, and SingHealth Family Medicine Symposium. The sessions are held twice a month, and more than 545 GPs have benefitted from these sessions to date as part of their professional development.
17. In the pipeline, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, or AMC, plans to extend their family medicine training programs and resources to GPs, such as the Minor Surgical Workshop, Women’s Health Workshop, and sharing of their clinical protocols. These initiatives will enhance the GPs’ overall knowledge and skills.
NURTURING THE NEXT GENERATION: MOU WITH SIT
18. I am heartened to share that SingHealth and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) are signing a five-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) today. The MOU is an extension of an ongoing partnership between the two parties which was first established in 2016, to provide learning and research opportunities to SIT students, and will explore the co-development and co-branding of graduate diploma and certificate courses for nurses, allied health professionals and healthcare system engineers.
19. This partnership will play an important role in nurturing future healthcare innovators who possess deep insights into current and future healthcare challenges, and who are equipped with the right skillsets to develop game-changing solutions that improve healthcare delivery in meaningful ways.
RECOGNISING OUTSTANDING EDUCATORS
20. This morning, I would like to congratulate the 61 recipients of the Golden Apple Awards 2022. These awards recognise and honour educators and staff from the SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC for their excellence, passion and commitment towards transforming teaching and inspiring learners amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic.
21. Beyond the 61 recipients, I would like to recognise all educators here today for your commitment to advancing healthcare education. In the healthcare space, education is built into the process. Almost every single one of us, as practitioners, will have to actively contribute to education in one way or another – whether formally within schools, or as mentors and supervisors. The leadership and excellence demonstrated by the outstanding educators that we celebrate today are a shining light for all of us to take reference from. All of you play a crucial role in keeping our healthcare workforce relevant and sustainable, and your contributions to the social impact and keeping our population and patients safe are exceptional. I wish all of you a fulfilling time at the Conference. Thank you.