Poly students' projects help sick and disabled
Three final-year projects at Ngee Ann Polytechnic aim to improve the lives of bed-bound patients and their caregivers.
He saw how his grandfather had trouble communicating with a nurse when he was hospitalised for kidney stones last year.
As his grandfather knew only Hokkien, he could hardly converse with the nurse, who was Malay.
So Mr Kenny Tan, 19, a graduating student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's (NP) Information Technology course, jumped at the opportunity to work with the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), which needed a solution to bridge the language barrier between nurse and patient.
NKF had approached NP for help.
Mr Tan and his course-mate, Mr Lim Wei Jian, 20, spent four months creating a mobile application (app) called Mobile Language & Dialect Assistant (MoLDA).
Using native human voice recordings from volunteers at NP and visual cues, the app provides translations of medical phrases from English to Mandarin, Malay, Cantonese and Hokkien. It also allows the patient to provide simple feedback by selecting from common phrases and pictures on the device.
Mr Lim said: "We gathered a lot of direct feedback from nurses and improved the usability and features of the app to cater to their needs."
Mr Tan said his grandfather's experience at the hospital inspired him to work on the app.
He added: "When the school shared this project with us, I wanted to be a part of it and contribute with my IT skills."
For the past two weeks, the app, which also has a database of common medications, has been used by the nurses at NKF Centre.
Mr James Tan, NKF's senior manager of operations and strategic planning, said that the app would be helpful, especially for their foreign nurses.
He said: "When the patient realises that the nurse is able to speak their language, it makes communication much easier. It also encourages the nurses to pick up languages in their own time."
Miss Junna Rae Estampador, 28, a healthcare assistant from the Philippines who has been working at NKF for the past two years, said she used to rely on other nurses for translations.
"Some of the patients laughed at my pronunciation at first. It helps me to build a rapport with them," she said.
Her patient, Mr Lai Kim Leong, 79, who used the app for the first time, said with a smile: "I could understand her a little better."
Hairwash close to patient's bed
Inspired by the IV-drip stand that is usually found next to hospital beds, three mechanical engineering students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) came up with an idea to improve the life of bedridden patients.
Replacing the IV drip with a 20-litre water bag usually used by campers, they invented a portable hair washing device.
This can be attached to a wheelchair and taken to the patient, who can use it to wash his or her hair.
Miss Alicia Peh, 20, one of the students behind the project, explained: "Some patients are bedridden or inactive and might not get to bathe every day, but they might feel uncomfortable if they don't wash their hair.
"This is a convenient way for them to wash their hair next to their bed."
The inspiration for the device came during a visit to All Saints Nursing Home last year, when the students noticed the challenges faced by healthcare workers.
Mr Gerald Wong, 20, who is part of the team, recalled: "There were many patients in each ward and it required a lot of time and manpower to transfer the patient from the bed to the wheelchair, then to the bathroom."
Aside from the hair-washing device, they also developed a device that adjusts the height of a commode chair. This makes it easier for the care giver to transfer the patient from the bed to the chair.
The third team member, Mr Ng You Rong, 20, said: "We understand that there is a manpower shortage in the healthcare industry.
"As engineers, we aim to provide solutions to problems.
"We hope that by making their jobs easier, more people will be attracted to the healthcare industry."
Their supervisor, Mr Teh Bok Seng, 62, senior lecturer at NP, said he is heartened by his students' effort.
"The students have provided a young perspective to improve the lives for those in the ageing population," he said.