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Bringing you Caregiving Stories from the CaregiverAsia Community

Caregiver Confidentials: Medical Companion Betty

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 16, 2016 8:00:00 PM / by Dominic Zou

Betty Yong has more than 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse, and provides medical companionship and health counseling services.

Back when the Singapore General Hospital was still simply called "General Hospital", Betty started in its School of Nursing. Three years later, in 1970, she completed her course and, in local parlance, she "passed out". This means "graduated", not "fainted". Betty completed her midwifery course in 1975 whereupon she was attached to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and in 1976 she joined the School Health Services' Primary Health Division (SHS). At that time, this was part of the Ministry of Health. Betty stayed with the School Health Services even after it was moved to the Health Promotion Board in 2001, until her retirement in 2004.

Betty is registered nurse turned medical companion

Working with school kids was an interesting and rewarding time. Among the SHS nurse's duties were checking on student health. Listening to hearts and lungs, checking heights and weights, visual acuity as well as color perception, hearing, even spinal alignment – those were the days when scoliosis was diagnosed visually, and later with some instrumentation – there's even a mobile app! Betty also had to carry out injections of all sorts – the Mantoux skin test, BCG vaccinations, and vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and so on. These were the days before pentavalent vaccines. Students who were obese or severely underweight, received dietary counseling. Betty also gave general health talks to the students (the teachers on the other hand, relied on their own government employee medical benefits).

With such a large scale screening, naturally some interesting things cropped up. In one case, nearly three quarters of a class of schoolkids were found to have high blood pressure. The incredulous doctors checked and measured this themselves, and validated the results – so it was not a systemic error caused by student nurses!

These days, Betty helps provide medical companionship services in the northern region of Singapore. This includes accompaniments on walks and simple games/exercises, as well as health counseling.

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In one case, Betty encountered a 6-year-old girl who was very certain she could hear from one side, but couldn't hear on the other. Betty had to calm her down – in local parlance, "sayang-sayang" – and refer her to a doctor. Administering hearing tests wasn't easy due to the tender age of the children, and sometimes it is surprising that even the parents didn't know of their children's condition. In another interesting story, Betty detected a mild color perception issue in a boy. It turned out that boy's father was a family friend!

Post-retirement, Betty carried out research and data gathering and collation, including obtaining patient consent, for a wide variety of public service sector agencies. These ranged from medical research for a multi-hospital project, as well as other government-linked research for various entities dealing with information technology, environmental issues and traffic management.

However, her background in care services was never far away. Betty also helped carry out volunteer work on behalf of a welfare home, including sending daily meals to full-time caregivers who were unable to work due to their heavy burden caring for dependent parents. In fact, her first "job" in caregiving was volunteering to be a medical escort – a friend's mother needed to go to hospital for chemotherapy, and Betty took to the task with ease.

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Topics: Caregiver Confidentials

Dominic Zou

Written by Dominic Zou