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A Fulfilling Healthcare Career while Pursuing Postgraduate Studies Amid a Covid-19 Pandemic

27 Sep 2021

Healthcare professionals play a vital role in the healthcare system to prevent and manage diseases, deliver healthcare services and promote public health. The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the critical role of healthcare professionals. One such healthcare professional is Nur Najihah Binti Salahuddin, who is also an IMU MSc in Analytical and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (MAPC) student. A pharmacist by profession, Najihah is currently pursuing her postgraduate studies via the open and distance learning (ODL) mode.

The IMU MAPC in ODL mode offers flexible learning, combining online learning with on campus practical, giving  students of this programme the opportunity to interact with faculty and peers from around the world. Since Najihah is working full-time, she is studying this programme part time which gives her the flexibility to choose the number of modules she wishes to study in every semester.

We take this opportunity to catch up with Najihah to hear her experience as a healthcare professional during this pandemic and how she balances her studies with work commitment.

Why did you decide to become a healthcare professional?

Being a healthcare professional has always been my dream job, as it has to do with my desire to help others while earning a living, and that is a win-win situation for me.

Indeed, there are very few professions where you can touch the lives of others and make a difference in them the way you can in the healthcare industry. In addition, I want to become a proud member of the healthcare team as pharmacists collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure patients take their medication as prescribed and avoid any harmful effects.

I also enjoy the wide variety of career opportunities for pharmacists involving patient care, scientific research, and innovation. A pharmacist can work in a myriad of professional settings, and the majority of them work in retail chain community pharmacy, hospital pharmacists, healthcare clinic (where I am working right now), the pharmaceutical industry, and many more.

Could you share with us your experience as a healthcare professional in a pandemic?

Since I am working in a healthcare clinic setting, the only difference is that we are trying to minimise the number of patient visits to the pharmacy and reduce contact among patients and healthcare providers by introducing a new value-added service, Rx Delivery 2u.

I am honored to have been given the opportunity to handle Rx Delivery 2u and collaborate with staff in KK Ampangan as a runner to deliver medicines to a patient’s doorstep. It is truly satisfying to be able to help those older patients with transportation difficulties to come to the pharmacy to get their subsequent month’s medication supply.

Other than that, we are also responsible for the proper transportation and storage of the vaccine. Besides that, as pharmacists, we are also in charge of allocating and distributing the correct amount of vaccine vials from the vaccine storage site and tally with the expected vaccine dose to be given for that day or week.

Why did you decide to pursue the IMU MAPC?

I have to admit ‘career change’ is my main reason to pursue a master’s degree; I have worked in both hospital and healthcare clinic settings, but careers in industrial settings can be hard to parachute into without a lot of experience. By pursuing this master’s degree, I could compensate for the knowledge that I lack.

Since I did my undergraduate studies with a public university, I considered studying for my master’s degree at a different university to broaden my outlook and to have a more extraordinary academic experience. I started a survey for a well-established private medical university offering Analytical and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and I came across International Medical University. IMU offers Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode for both full-time and part-time, which is fortunate for me.

An article that I came across mentioned that we need a state of relative anxiety to maximize our performance, where our stress levels are slightly higher than usual. This is called “Optimal Anxiety.” Therefore, I want to challenge myself to flip the autopilot switch and take small steps away from my comfort zone by pursuing this master’s degree.

Could you share your experience so far on the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programme?
I think this ODL mode saves my life; although both public and private universities offered master’s programmes, the time was not flexible enough for me to juggle my studies and job. The easy access to lectures notes, discussion, and assignment submissions in the ODL programme allow me to have flexible time to study. Most of the lectures are held during weekends, making it easier to join the online class. If I can’t join the synchronous lectures, I can still view the recorded lectures during my free time.

Even though the ODL mode is an excellent alternative learning mode for working students, I still struggle with time commitment between work and assignment workloads. This proves that postgraduate courses are more autonomous, requiring students to put more personal effort into the learning process and engage independently. These somehow help me to enhance my time management skills, professional skills, and self-motivation.

What advice would you give your peers who are interested in postgraduate study? I just finished my 1st semester, so I did not think I had the right to give advice. Nevertheless, I think the most crucial point is knowing your genuine reason to further your studies. Spending another year at university can seem appealing, but you have to be aware of the level of commitment required to undertake a master’s study.

Remember to enjoy your learning; there will be ups and downs, but you can make it work by being organised and prepared. To quote Henry Ford “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young”. All the best!

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Najihah for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions.

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