Nursing a passion: Graduating students share their journeys

Nursing is a demanding but fulfilling profession, according to three graduates from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies.

Although they are of different ages and backgrounds, the recent graduates share some striking similarities: they all entered the nursing course during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are graduating with a renewed passion for the healthcare industry.

Leong Yong Fei: Oldest student a role model for others

For Leong Yong Fei, having a double degree in economics and mathematics and a master’s degree in real estate from NUS were not enough – he is also a newly minted nursing graduate at his alma mater.

At 61, he is the oldest student to date in the Career Conversion Programme for Registered Nurses (CCP-RN). “When I asked my 28-year-old son to be my guarantor for the programme, he almost dropped out of his chair,” the former finance manager recalled with a laugh.

He learnt about the two-year programme through a Facebook advertisement in 2020. When he saw how frontline workers fought against COVID-19, he thought about his time as a medic during National Service and knew he had to sign up.

Once he convinced the interview board – and his family – that it was the right decision, the work began in earnest.  

In school, Yong Fei had to re-adjust to the rhythms of academic life. To keep pace with his academic workload, he maintained a steady routine of going to bed by 10pm so he could attend morning lectures and lab sessions, attentive and alert.

His efforts paid off when it came to the rigorous 32-week clinicals. Attached to the Singapore General Hospital and Outram Community Hospital, he had to attend to patients with intensive rehabilitation needs while shadowing other nurses, who were often surprised at his energy levels.

While he initially found it awkward that his course mates were approximately his children’s ages, he realised that he could connect with patients more naturally. He also relished the opportunity to learn how the human body responds to various medical interventions.

Eager to learn as much as he could to become a better nurse, he was not afraid to ask questions. “Mature students in the CCP programme don’t just accept things at face value; they want to know why this thing does what it does,” he said.

Yong Fei will be receiving his Bachelor of Science (Nursing) degree from NUS on 9 July. Now that he has graduated, he will fulfil his three-year bond with his sponsoring organisation, Outram Community Hospital, where he hopes to help as many patients as possible.

Muhammad Luqman: Nursing degree opens other doors in healthcare industry

Muhammad Luqman always knew that he wanted to study Nursing – although being a nurse was not necessarily his ultimate goal.

At the age of 15, he started working and providing various first aid services, which he continued until 2021 when he led the operations team in an ambulance service business. 

He was inspired to join Nursing because of his late grandmother, who had passed away from cancer just three months after falling ill. While his experience as a medic helped him care for her, he wanted a better understanding of her condition and how to alleviate her pain. “If I had a full understanding of the possible options then, I would have brought her home from the hospital and taken care of her,” said Luqman, now 24.

NUS Nursing, he believed, would strengthen his healthcare knowledge and provide a solid foundation for him to serve elsewhere in the healthcare industry. True enough, after being posted to several institutions, he explored his options and decided to apply his hard-earned experience to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) as a Paramedic Officer. He had always wanted to serve on the frontline, especially in a pre-hospital care setting. He is currently serving in the EMS Department – Readiness Branch, where he strives to ensure operational readiness and effectiveness of frontline units.

With a newfound “understanding of the entire healthcare ecosystem”, he is able to streamline different types of care to the patients and prepare them for hospital admittance.

“NUS has done a good job at providing that foundation,” said Luqman, who will receive a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) degree from NUS on 9 July. “Now I understand the trajectory of the injury and what kind of care I can provide.”

Drawing parallels between his current job and that of a nurse’s, he said: “At the heart of it, we are caring for others, making sure the care they get is streamlined and boosting their quality of care.”

Jessalyn Soh: A long but fulfilling journey

Inspired by her mum, Jessalyn Soh has always wanted to be a nurse. Her mother, a nurse of over 40 years, used to take her around the neighbourhood and region when helping communities with their healthcare needs for free. However, her route to fulfilling her nursing dream was a bumpy one.

Though she wanted to study Nursing in polytechnic, her banking certificate from the Institute of Technical Education did not allow her to apply for the course at that time. The next best alternative, she said, was to enrol for the Health Service Management course at Republic Polytechnic. After her diploma, she successfully applied for and entered NUS Nursing in 2019, on a Ministry of Health Holdings Healthcare Merit Award.

But once in university, she was faced with a new challenge – at 24 years old, she felt older than most of her peers. She often wondered if she had the strength and energy to keep up with them in a tough programme. “I thought being an older student meant that I was less capable than them,” she said. 

Now 28, she realises that her age is a strength ­– for example, her experiences made it easier for her to relate to her patients. 

At NUS, she had various opportunities to develop new skills – for instance, she picked up a new language, Bahasa Indonesia, which enabled her to communicate with more patients. Interactive lessons at the anatomy labs also gave her a first-hand view of the intricacies of internal organs and their inter-related parts.

She forged strong friendships with her peers. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we would send messages like ‘Today you can do it!’ to our group chat every morning,” she recalled.

Jessalyn, who will soon start work at the National University Hospital, said that having a can-do attitude helped her through university: “Don’t be afraid, and don’t think that your age is going to be a disadvantage. Just try!”

On 9 July 2023, Jessalyn will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) with Honours (Distinction) from NUS.

This story is part of NUS News’ coverage of Commencement 2023, which celebrates the achievements of our more than 14,700 graduates from the Class of 2023. For more on Commencement, read our stories and graduate profiles, check out the official Commencement website, or look up and tag #NUS2023 on our social media channels!