Our healthcare workers come to mind when we think about the fight against COVID-19. While we WFH, they face real dangers, long hours and stressful situations at the hospitals while juggling family and for some, children.
We wanted to meet with Dr Jade Kua, a Senior Pediatric Emergency Consultant to learn about her day as a doctor and speak about the COVID-19 situation. However, things changed when she was suddenly placed on home quarantine.
So interviews in the #WFH situation now look like this: An interview over IG Live and a photoshoot at home by anyone who is available.
Dr Jade Kua wears Do You Mind Dress in Blueberry, Size L
How have things been for you since you’re on home quarantine?
It was not easy because initially I wasn’t used to not being consumed by work but now I’ve found a new rhythm.
What is your usual role at the hospital?
Well, the emergency room is open 24/7 so usually I’m part of a team that sees overlapping doctors come in fresh into a shift all day. We see a range of patients including emergency cases. There are both surgical and medical cases that present and my role as a senior doctor is to coordinate the care and ensure every patient is seen in a timely manner.
What has changed since COVID-19?
Ever since COVID-19 happened, we now work in modular teams in 12 hour shifts. The team leaders receive notices from Ministry of Health.
In a public health crisis, there’s a lot of instructions, updates and protocols along with administrative work. So I’m more of a follower than a leader to these instructions. If the government says ‘you need to wear a mask even if you’re well’, we tell the patients the same.
Dr Jade Kua wears No Problemo Jumpsuit in Lavender, Size L
As a mother of 6 children are you afraid of spreading the virus to your children?
Initially I was quite confident I wouldn’t because we’ve been trained several times on how to put on personal protective equipment. As a nation of healthcare providers, we are trained to cope with a massive casualty like that.
But now it sounds like a lot of the cases are being spread in the community and a lot are not linked and you have the problem of asymptomatic carriers. It’s making me feel like we can never be complacent. I’m much more careful with washing hands and being around my children.
You mentioned briefly that our society should communicate about COVID-19 honestly.
I think the only way people can move forward in a public health crisis is to share information freely. It is not helpful to point fingers, blame or make bad inferences.
Therefore, I feel that for any relationship between government and people, it’s best to be transparent and open. It definitely makes it challenging when the audience doesn’t take it well.
We have to play our part if we want someone to be open with us. We can’t be throwing hissy fits and getting panicky all the time. You can’t blame them when things change. It’s a dynamic situation.
How did you feel about car sharing services shunning healthcare workers?
It was very tough and initially we didn’t understand what was happening. We were sharing at the pantry and we figured the way to get around it is to put another destination near the hospital instead.
The truth is at work, we are quite protected with all the gear. We also have to shower after work. So we are more likely to catch it from someone in the community rather than catching it at the hospital.
Do you feel unappreciated often at work?
Yes, but fortunately we’re so busy at work that we don’t have time to feel unappreciated.
On the flip side because of the COVID-19 situation, there is a sudden appreciation of front-liners. It’s awesome, to be honest.
This is might be a trend though and people might forget about us after this. I was just sharing today that people tend to get very raw and emotional at the emergency department. People don’t plan to go to the hospital. You go during the worst times of your life, when you’re really sick or been in an accident. You are there because you have no choice. Everyone is crossed or dressed in their pyjamas. Under such circumstances, no one thinks about appreciating the frontline doctor or nurse.
But now when people send us food like bubble tea or cupcakes and that’s amazing. It might seem like a small gesture but the team really appreciates it. It’s nice to know that someone cares.
Dr Jade Kua wears Grandpa's Groove Wide Pants in Blueberry, Size L
What do doctors do after work these days?
Actually before COVID-19, some of us didn’t hang out much outside of work. But it’s only because of COVID-19, we now work in modular team and really want to make sure the junior doctors are not too overworked and exhausted. We want them to know that we think of them as people, not worker-bees.
So before the circuit breaker happened, we used to take the junior doctors to throw axes at Ax Factor. It was very therapeutic! We went to mini golf too at Clarke Quay and we’ve been eating a lot. Yes, eating a lot. And karaoke seems quite common too!
So actually this COVID-19 situation has brought us closer to our immediate team members.
What motivates you through the 12-hour shifts?
My shift is never routine or boring. Different people come through the door like orthopaedic case like a broken ankle, appendicitis, a medical case like diabetes or heart attack. It’s quite varied. Boring is the last word I’ll use for work.
But it can be tiring because of the stress from seeing anything under the sun everyday and having to be super alert or not having time to drink, eat or pee.
When you first became a doctor, why did you choose to work at A&E?
I knew I wanted to be see a variety of cases. I enjoyed every posting I did and I thought I’d be forever single and travelling the world. (unlike now when I have 6 children)
I thought if I was going to be stranded in a remote location, I would want to be able to manage whatever came my way. I wanted to at least figure out what was wrong and through some method, tide through the acute period. That left me with family medicine or emergency medicine. But I enjoyed working in an institution where I have a huge team of support with me like excellent plastic surgeons and radiologists who can help read a CT scan on hand.
Dr Jade Kua wears Birds Don't Sing Dress in Blueberry, Size L
What are some of the downsides and inconveniences as part of a doctor’s life that people might not know about?
It’s very normal for me to skip out on typical family events. I’ve spent most Christmases at work and I have nice collection of me wearing my little Santa hat with my colleagues.
This year because we were working through Valentine’s day, I gave sunflowers to all my nurses in my ward. For Chinese New Year, we were hosting an open house but I skipped out of that as well. That was when DORSCON Orange was breaking into the oranger part of orange.
Does your family understand the nature of your work and the lives you are saving?
My husband’s mom is also a doctor. She’s a pioneer gynaecologist so they were used to being at the dinner table and mom suddenly disappearing to do a delivery.
My own children, ever since they discovered COVID-19 can be fatal, they’ve planned my funeral. They told me this once I came home. They said, ‘How was work? We heard people have been dying’. I told them, ‘Yes, many people are dying everyday.’ So they asked me ‘Could you potentially die too, Mama?’ and I said yes, because I don’t shy away from telling them the truth especially when it’s about death. So they replied, ‘Okay, we shall plan your funeral.’
How do you manage to balance motherhood and being a doctor?
The kids are great. They can rise to the occasion. Like my stepson Martin who is 21, he stepped up and has been helping around the house. He organised an easter egg hunt for his siblings on his own without my input. Today was my helper’s day off so he didn’t bother her and he has been organising our meals. He’s currently the man of the house and I really appreciate him being a great support for me.
PS: Did you know Dr Jade Kua has her own blog, aptly named 'A Doctor's Note'? Click here to read more!