Heart for community nursing

January 2019

Tampines Care Home Acting Director of Nursing Grace Ho once aspired to be a doctor or a pharmacist, but a major stomach surgery when she was 20 years old rerouted her path. Grace felt helpless after her surgery and was battling the post-operative pains; but not for long. Her agony was alleviated thanks to – you guessed it – nurses.

While most of her batchmates went on to pursue a career as a teacher or laboratory technician after they graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science (chemistry) from the National University of Singapore, Grace chose to work as a nursing aide before entering nursing school. Her friends felt she had made a “crazy” decision. Yet, Grace did not let the naysayers stop her from chasing her newfound calling. Till today, she has never regretted her decision and has even inspired her son, Joshua Lee to join nursing! Joshua is now a Staff Nurse at St. Andrew’s Nursing Home (Henderson).

We had a little heart-to-heart with Grace and Joshua. Read on to learn about the nursing journeys of mother and son.

Grace: After a year in junior college, Joshua realised that he didn’t like the subjects he was doing. Instead, he was more interested in the polytechnic courses, particularly in the areas of health and nutrition. In the end, he went with nursing.

Joshua: As a kid, my ambition was just to be rich. As a grown-up, my ambition still remains unchanged; I want to be "rich", just like my mum! She is one wealthy lady who possesses an abundance of experience, knowledge and character. If anything, she has taught me to look beyond material needs by showing me the joy in helping others, which was one of the reasons why I chose nursing.

CTGB: We’re sure you get this a lot, but what was it like growing up with a mother who is a nurse?

Joshua: I was always moved by my mum’s willingness to help anyone and everyone, especially her patients. You can see the passion burning in her eyes as she patiently cares for those in need. She works really hard, sometimes returning from work late at night or early in the morning. Yet, she’s always there for the family whenever we need her most.

She also seemed to always know what to do whenever anyone of us is ill. She is like our “family doctor”. Mum would take time off from work just to be with us and nurse us back to health. I seldom had to see a doctor unless necessary. It's even better for the family now that there are two nurses in the family!

Grace: I just do what I can to be there for my family, like how they were there for me when I suffered from a transient ischemic attack many years ago. Joshua was only in primary five then, and he was very afraid that he would lose me. After my discharge, he showered me with plenty of care and concern. Young Joshua would “nag” at me almost every other day to let him know if I ever feel unwell so that he could immediately call 995.

Left: Young Joshua with Grace when she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1998.

Right: Joshua with Grace when she graduated with a master’s degree in education from Nanyang Technological University in 2018.

CTGB: Could this particular incident have sparked Joshua's interest in nursing?

Grace: Maybe. The signs were already there though. As a child, he loved asking me questions about my job, different types of medication and other healthcare-related matters. When Joshua eventually came clean and said that he wanted to be a nurse, it came as no surprise. I was most glad about it! However, I knew that some lines had to be drawn. While I am gratified that he chose the same path as mine, I wanted him to learn to walk on his own.

When Joshua was taking his nursing diploma in Nanyang Polytechnic, I was not allowed to teach his classes. He was very upset as he was looking forward to attending my classes! Once, when revising for his skills test, he sought my help to oversee his practice. However, he dismissed whatever I had taught him since it was not similar to what his lecturer had done. Since that day, I learnt that it was easier to teach a class of students than to teach my own children.

As a mum, I would not want to see my children fail. Joshua confides in me for some of his difficult cases. Being relatively new to nursing, my son still has much to learn. I always tell him to avoid putting undue expectations and stress on himself. To encourage him, I also tell him to never stop learning and gaining new experience. These lessons will eventually make him a more diligent and competent nurse. I find it serendipitous that both Joshua and I are both working as nurses in community care now. It’s also apt that Joshua’s birthday falls on 1 August – Nurses’ Day in Singapore!

CTGB: Finally, what is nursing to both of you?

Joshua: Even though community nursing is considered by some to be a sunset industry, I chose to enter the sector because I saw the need for nurses in the community. Most residents stay for the long term, and to them, the nursing home is like their own home. To me, community nursing goes beyond just medical care for patients; it is more holistic. This means that I not only have to tend to their physical needs but also their mental, emotional as well as their social needs.

Grace: Nursing definitely demands patience, passion, perseverance and dedication. Having these traits will help one withstand the challenges that come with the profession. I am in awe of senior nurses who are still tirelessly contributing to the profession in their respective fields. My utmost respect goes out to each and every one of them out there!