Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Young & Inspired: Why She Gave Up Molecular Biotechnology To Be A Nurse

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Phoebe Neo first fell in love with Nursing when she underwent an attachment at a hospital through her co-curricular activity, St John Ambulance Brigade, in secondary school.

She recalled: “That was the very first time I began to aspire to become someone who could contribute to society the way that nurses did.”

Despite this, Phoebe didn’t go straight into Nursing. Unsure if she wanted to pursue her aspiration as a career, she took up a Diploma in Molecular Biotechnology in a polytechnic instead. It didn’t take long for her to realise that the topic didn’t excite her as much as Nursing did, and she switched courses to pursue her passion.

What she did not expect was to land in the Community Care sector. She had initially planned to work in acute care settings as she enjoyed a fast-paced environment. “…I felt that the Community Care sector might not be able to provide me with the best foundation and give me the same ‘excitement’ that an acute hospital would. My perception quickly changed after joining the sector.” Phoebe is in her fourth year at Yishun Community Hospital (YCH) now.

Read on to find out how this Staff Nurse overcame challenges as a Community Care nurse, and her advice to those who wish to join the profession.

What was it like when you first started your career at YCH?

I was posted to a sub-acute ward where we got the opportunity to provide holistic care to our patients. At YCH, we work closely with an allied health care team to focus on patients’ recovery where we help them regain their health and daily functions via therapy and education.

What I came to like most about working at a community hospital is how we try our best to provide opportunities for patients and caregivers to learn new care skills. We continuously encourage our patients to be independent as well, so that they are able to care for themselves after their discharge.

Phoebe discussing a patient’s case with her colleague.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a nurse in the Community Care sector and how do you overcome them?

Most patients who are admitted to a community hospital tend to stay longer as compared to those in acute ones. So one of the biggest challenges I face is making sure my patients’ emotional health is cared for, on top of their physical health. Patients tend to miss life outside of the hospital so this results in them getting frustrated, upset or stressed out over time. Therefore, it is important for us to build good rapport, take the time to understand their needs, and provide help to make them feel cared for and supported.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?

When the pandemic hit Singapore, my ward was temporarily converted from a sub-acute ward into a COVID-19 ward. Undeniably, there was a lot of apprehension among the nurses about the possibility of bringing the virus back home to our loved ones. Nonetheless, instead of feeling down and depressed, we tried to be positive and focused our attention on caring for the patients while enforcing infection control measures.

What advice do you have for people who are just starting their career journey?

Firstly, take pride in your work. Previously, people used to think that nurses would just take orders and clean patients up. But now, the perception is shifting - the profession provides so many opportunities. We are trained in many areas, practise critical thinking and apply solid medical knowledge to our daily work – we are our patients’ advocates.

Phoebe checking in on her patient’s well-being.

Secondly, give it a try and don’t give up easily. Working as a nurse, whether in an acute care or community hospital setting, is not without its challenges. As with any new profession, the first year at work will likely be the most challenging. If you feel overwhelmed or stressed, speak to someone such as your seniors, managers or nurse educators.

What advice would you have for anyone considering a career in Nursing?

Nursing is not easy and that is precisely what makes it a noble profession. To me, life is meaningful only if I can make a difference in people’s lives. Becoming a nurse and making a difference is my way of living a purposeful life.

Want to join the Community Care sector? Click here for career opportunities.

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