“I do not want to be a doctor with superb medical skills, yet who appears cold and aloof, and is unable to interact and communicate well with patients,” said Dr. Ho Xin Qin, and this was what she told herself while still studying in the medical school.
A gentle, soft-spoken, and well-mannered young lady, Dr Ho is a resident doctor at the Lakeside Family Medicine Clinic, which is run by Tzu Chi Singapore. A few years ago, when she was undergoing her training in a government hospital, she did not have much time to interact with her patients and instead, spent a large portion of her time doing administrative work.
She shared that each time she spoke with a patient, their conversation mostly revolved around the latter’s health conditions. Thus, she did not have close interactions with them, let alone really understand how they felt. She found that there was a lack of human touch and warmth in those interactions. Then, doubts started arising in her mind, and this made her feel quite lost…...
“I have always thought that a medical profession is a very meaningful job. But at that time, for some reason, I could not find meaning in my work,” shared Dr Ho.
She realised that as a result of her busy workload, she started feeling lost and deluded in her career. Thus, she gradually lost her passion in her work.
In 2011, Dr Ho, who was still a trainee doctor then, went to Tzu Chi Medical Centre in Hualien, Taiwan, to observe a simulated surgery class, upon recommendation by her Anatomy lecturer, Assoc. Prof. Ng Yee Kong, from the National University of Singapore. All the cadavers used for Tzu Chi’s simulated surgery class come from body donors, and they are respectfully called “Silent Mentors”.
This eye-opening and moving experience was a turning point in her life. She witnessed the respectful and humane treatment Tzu Chi accorded to the Silent Mentors and was profoundly touched by the selfless acts of giving by the body donors. From her learning trip to Taiwan, she also discovered Tzu Chi’s patient-centred medical care, which combined professionalism with humanistic values, and how the NGO meticulously trained medical professionals to practise humanistic care.
During the course, Dr Ho listened to a talk by Dharma Master De Chan from Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Abode, which struck her deeply. The Master earnestly reminded everyone to stay true to their calling and initial aspirations. Dr Ho was very impressed and touched that the Buddhist nun could really understand the inner sentiments of medical personnel, although she is not a medical professional herself.
Master De Chan’s inspiring words helped Dr Ho discover her life’s purpose and direction. After she returned to the hospital in Singapore to continue her training, though she was not able to fulfil her heartfelt wish yet, she no longer felt lost and deluded. And she began to join the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers.
When Dr Ho turned 30, she chose to follow her inner wish and made the decision to quit her job at the hospital. She subsequently joined Lakeside Family Medicine Clinic as a general practitioner, with the hope of serving patients with a more humanistic approach and truly putting what she has learned from Tzu Chi into practice.
Now, Dr Ho seeks to understand the emotional needs of her patients besides working to safeguard their health, providing emotional support to the latter when needed. There are some booklets of Jing Si Aphorisms (wise sayings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen) on her work desk, which she often gives to her patients to share the inspiring teachings with them.
“She is very gentle and thoughtful and has a kind heart. She always focuses on the needs of her patients. I feel that many patients like her as they will request to consult her,” said Selina Low, the manager of Lakeside Family Medicine Clinic.
A nurse at the clinic also commented that Dr Ho is an amiable person: “Dr Ho often wears a smile on her face and is very warm and approachable. She treats people very well and often encourages patients and her colleagues. She sees everyone as her friends and will lend a listening ear to others.”
She added, “Lending a listening ear to a person can help to relieve his inner troubles. Allowing the person to speak about his feelings will make him feel more comfortable, and he will know that someone still cares for him.”
In the big family of Tzu Chi, the care and support from fellow volunteers warms her heart. During her free time, she devotes herself to various Tzu Chi activities, such as charity home visits, environmental protection programmes, and news writing. She finds every task very interesting and feels that all the activities are very meaningful. Even when she is helping to pick up trash at an environmental activity, she will feel very happy.
Dr Ho shared that sometimes, patients would complain to her about poor quality medical services that they had received in other places, and this made her feel that there is really a lack of humanistic care in modern times. Hence, she is determined to put humanistic care into practice.
“I want to learn and practise humanistic care. I do not just want to do that myself, but also encourage other medical personnel to do the same,” she said resolutely.
Dr Ho feels that she now has a clearer understanding of her life’s direction and feels very grateful. The words of Dharma Master Cheng Yen have given her a lot of inspiration and she hopes to encourage and guide more medical personnel to practise humanistic care and serve patients with more empathy and compassion.