To Suresh Rajasekaram, a 2016 graduate from the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, being a nurse means being a multi-faceted person — a pillar of support, an advocate, a coordinator, and someone who will simply be there for their patients. Assistant Professor Liaw Sok Ying from NUS Nursing shares a similar view, summing up her perspective in the acronym of NURSE — non-judgemental, unselfish, resilient, smart, and empathetic.
On 1 August, Singapore remembers how on this day in 1885, sisters from a local French convent answered a call from General Hospital, and became the city-state’s first nurses. In honour of Singapore Nurses’ Day, members of NUS Nursing at different points of their career share some of their insights and experiences.
Frequent trips to the hospital due to a childhood condition meant Year 1 Nursing student Lim Shi Min had many opportunities to interact with nurses. Recalling a minor surgery she had, she said, “The nurses were trying their best to distract me from the pain and did all sorts of funny stuff like blowing bubbles. It made me want to be in that position too, to reassure patients that they’re not alone and there’s someone here for them.”
The course is gaining interest among her peers, with NUS Nursing seeing an increase in the number of applications received in recent years. It has also increased its intake from 155 last year to 235 this year. A stellar student and an NUS Global Merit Scholarship recipient, Shi Min is also a nursing advocate, helping dispel the misconception that nursing is an unattractive career option. “Today, Advanced Practice Nurses are qualified to lead clinics to manage patients with chronic conditions. Nurses are also given more autonomy in their jobs and I feel there is a need for the public to recognise this fact,” she said.
For Suresh, a chance decision to take the nursing course at the Institute of Technical Education led him down this path. During internships throughout his studies, he experienced the suffering, hardship and uncertainties associated with the reality of illness and he wanted to be able to guide and help patients through this experience.
Now a nurse at a high-dependency ward at the National University Hospital, he finds himself well-placed to offer consolation, support and solace to the family of ill patients. “At the end of the day, seeing them able to mitigate and move on from this difficult phase of their life gives me the biggest meaning to being a nurse,” he shared.
Suresh also enjoys the opportunities for learning — he regularly encounters different diagnoses and medical conditions and relishes reading up to build a deeper understanding. He is also in a residency programme, conducting an evidence-based quality improvement project. “I really am enjoying what I do,” he says.
Being a male nurse in what is still commonly seen as a female-centric occupation has also led to many a curious question. Nonetheless, Suresh takes this lightly. “Being the thorn among the roses has actually been a bed of roses for me,” he quipped. He attributes this to the ability to provide brawn where needed and help when patients might be violent or restless.
Asst Prof Liaw believes that being a nurse is her calling. “A desire to devote myself to care for people,” she said simply. This desire also led her on the teaching path to train future nurses.
At NUS Nursing, Asst Prof Liaw is a strong proponent for the use of simulation in nursing education, which involves mimicking actual clinical scenarios using a mix of technology and role play in small group settings. She started incorporating simulation-based learning into the curriculum in 2009. Some of the simulation scenarios are also conducted jointly between NUS Nursing and NUS Medicine students, to promote collaborative practice in the workplace as they work alongside their healthcare colleagues.
“Role playing in simulation creates the opportunity for the students to become immersed in realistic simulated environments, while the debriefing session that follows allows students to reflect on their experiences, to develop abstract concepts and to identify future improvements. The learning becomes deeper and more meaningful if students are able to learn from their experiences,” Asst Prof Liaw elaborated.