Singapore celebrates Nurses’ Day on 1 August, in honour of the start of nursing services in Singapore in 1885. The first nurses in Singapore were actually French nuns from the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. Since then, the profession has grown to about 40,000 practicing nurses in Singapore.
We catch up with Shareen Cheng, Head of Nursing Services at Doctor Anywhere, where she also leads our home-based nursing services. She shares memorable stories from her career and sheds light on what it takes to be a nurse.
Nursing is more than just “dirty work”
“Some may think, “Nursing is just wiping people’s bottoms!” But we do a lot more than that.
As a nurse, you’re the patient’s number one advisor and supporter. Much of a nurse’s job is also counselling patients and managing their emotions. For example, if a patient is in denial about their condition, how do you help them through that so they can seek the care they need?
It’s challenging because we still need to establish boundaries. While I care deeply for all my patients, I can’t make the final decision on treatment for them. All I can do is provide them with the right information and emotional support they need to make an informed choice.
So being a nurse is definitely more than just manual labour!
Compassion is at the heart of nursing
Every patient has a lasting impact on you. I’ve seen everything – from birth to death.
My first job after graduation was in the neo-natal ward at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital where I looked after ill newborns and premature babies. Being able to witness a monumental moment in a mother and child’s life such as childbirth is very special. I have wonderful memories of all the babies under my care. There were so many – once I had to nurse 9 babies in one shift by myself!
After that, I went into a private gynae-oncology clinic. I remember meeting a patient, who was only 23 years old when she was diagnosed with womb cancer. We ultimately had to remove her womb, yet she remained so positive and strong throughout her treatment.
Meeting patients like her inspire me to be a better and more empathetic person to care for people around me. Every day I ask myself, how can I help my patients?
Being able to share my experiences to help others keeps me going
What motivates me is giving back to the community.
A funny incident happened during my student attachment to a delivery suite. I had to help a mother through labour pains; I just kept telling her, “Breathe in, breathe out.” even though I didn’t know what giving birth was like and whether it really helped. When you’re an inexperienced nurse, you have to go by the book, since you can’t rely on personal experience.
What I love now about being a nurse is that I’ve gone through quite a bit – both in my career and personal life – and I can use these experiences to help my patients with their health and worries. For instance, during home-based vaccinations , I can share more with parents on milestones to expect for their children, based on my own experience with my kids.
There’s no better feeling than seeing a patient’s health improving or being thanked by a patient for your care. In that way, nursing is very fulfilling and meaningful work because you’re directly impacting people’s lives.
You have to love nursing
We say this about every job but it’s really true for nursing. You won’t be able to last long if you dread work.
Perhaps, I’m lucky – after all, nursing runs in my blood! My grandfather worked as a hospital attendant; my grandmother provided confinement services for mothers. Even my friend said, “I can totally see you as a nurse.” before I enrolled in nursing.
For those considering nursing, do some self-reflection first. How do you treat others, especially strangers? Are you a people’s person? How much can you give? Although you won’t know how you’ll act until you’re facing a situation yourself, this helps you to prepare for the demands of nursing.
They’re not easy questions to answer, but that’s because nursing is serious hard and heart work.”
Nurses are the quiet backbone of the healthcare system. A nurse’s duty includes caring for patients, communicating with doctors, managing medication, and countless other tasks.
This Nurses’ Day, we’d like to recognise all the nurses that are toiling in the background. Thank you for your sacrifices and efforts to keep us safe and healthy!