What makes nursing so special for me? I get to witness the entire spectrum of life, from hearing a baby’s first cry to watching over a patient who is drawing his last breath. Which other profession allows you to experience life with such intimacy?
In the past, there were limited career choices for women. I wanted a career that was interesting yet meaningful, and could make a difference in people’s lives. Nursing definitely fulfilled my career aspirations. In fact, my mother was the one who suggested I try nursing – and I am glad I did!
People often portray nursing as a second-class or low-skilled job where nurses act as the physician’s assistant. On the contrary, nursing requires intelligence. Nurses pick up early warning signs of deterioration and bring them to the attention of the medical team. We advocate for patients and act in their best interest.
Today, I am as passionate, if not more so, about the profession, despite wearing a different hat.
When I worked as an oncology nurse, I was often assigned to mentor student nurses or act as a preceptor to newly registered nurses posted to the clinical area. I found tremendous satisfaction each time I helped my nursing colleagues understand their work processes better and settle in faster, and when I witnessed the professional development of my nursing students.
My colleagues and supervisors often commented that I had the flair to teach, guide and develop others. That set me thinking – could I do more?
Developing the next generation
Having worked as a nurse for almost two decades, I knew that I had amassed enough experience to share my knowledge with others. That was the impetus for me in moving from clinical nursing to nursing education.
As a nurse educator, my goal is to develop the next generation of nurses who are safe and competent practitioners, and can be a pillar of support for their patients as they journey through health and sickness.
There are many moments in my job that I cherish, such as when students stay back after class to chat with me and discuss lecture topics. I am thankful that our nursing students show educators a lot of love and respect. I receive cards, flowers and “thank you” notes from my students – even after they’ve graduated. I am invited to attend the momentous events in their lives, such as engagements, weddings and christening of babies.
I once had a student whose assignment was not progressing well. He was so distressed that he sent me emails and text messages every 15 minutes. We spent a whole Saturday working on his submission. When he received his grades, witnessing his reaction was worth every minute of the time spent. It is moments like these that makes the job so rewarding.
Nursing is not easy and often requires sacrifice – you are at work when your family is celebrating an occasion; you are working while your friends are on holidays.
Yes, you miss out on holidays and events but you are not alone. You are with your patients. Your patients are not alone; they are with you.
I am Associate Professor M Kamala Devi from the National University of Singapore’s Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies. Want to experience life’s ups and downs with me? Be a nurse!