Like mother, like daughter

December 2018

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) Senior Nurse Manager Rujia Ali Shahul Hameed Mohammed Feroz is, forgive our language, a pretty kickass woman. Apart from winning the most inspiring award at this year’s Great Women Of Our Time Awards, she is also a passionate volunteer for the needy, chairman of The Frontier CC Women Executive Committee, 3rd Vice Chairman of the Women’s Integration Network Council and – you guessed it – an amazing nurse!

As a community care nurse, Rujia visits her patients’ homes to follow up on their conditions. To better communicate with them, Rujia even learnt to speak Mandarin and various dialects, especially Hokkien fluently! With such an impressive CV, one might wonder how Rujia's accomplishments have a bearing on the family. It turns out that Rujia's daughter, Shamira Natasha, has followed in her mother's footsteps and is currently studying at Ngee Ann Polytechnic as a Year 2 nursing student. We speak to mother and daughter to find out more about their nursing stories.

Shamira: It was interesting growing up with a nurse for a mother! Whenever my father sent or picked my mum up from work, my siblings and I would clamour to be brought along for the ride. Once in the hospital, I would wander along the hospital's corridors and explore its wards. It was an eye-opener. I remember family members of patients seeking advice from my mum and as a young child, this made me feel like she was the smartest person on earth.

CTGB: Did this inspire you to join nursing?

Shamira: In all honesty... no. (laughs) I had plenty of ambitions as a kid and fantasised about being a teacher or a doctor! It was only in secondary school, when my grandfather passed away of a sudden heart attack, that I realised I wanted to be a nurse. My mum was really shocked when she found out.

Rujia: I actually objected when I first heard about it and gave her a long lecture! Shamira is smart, hardworking and fearless – perfect traits for nursing – but I reacted the way I did because being a nurse requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. I wasn't sure if it was just a spur of the moment decision on Shamira's part. What if she decides, later on, that nursing wasn't her cup of tea?

Shamira: I was so surprised. You would think parents want their children to follow in their footsteps, right? I stood firm on my decision and told my mum that she was my role model. Her commitment to her patients is nothing short of inspiring. She keeps her phone on 24/7 to make sure that she can be contacted by her patients no matter the time. She also goes above and beyond by delivering groceries and cooking for them in her free time. She even spends her Monday evenings writing petition letters for needy residents during Meet-the-People sessions!

Once, she visited an elderly patient who lived alone in a one-room rental flat – a mother of six children most of whom are in prison. My mum was in shock when she saw her patient dressed in torn clothes and eating mouldy bread. She returned immediately after work with a set of new clothes and groceries to cook a simple dinner for the patient. From then on, my mum visits her regularly on weekends and buys her festive goodies every Hari Raya. I mean, what kind of incredible person does this?

Rujia: No lah, I'm just trying to do the best for my patients... I believe Shamira would do the same, given the opportunity. She has a heart of gold. We deliver food to the less fortunate every Sunday and once we encountered a feeble elderly lady struggling to open the gate for us. She cried and said, "Mummy, we have to do something." She pretends to be a tough soul, but she's a softie inside. I believe that Shamira will go on to do great things in nursing.

Sometimes I look back on my own nursing journey and wonder how I managed to do it at all. I began at Alexandra Hospital’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit and Medical Intensive Care Unit, transferred to the National University Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Programme, completed my nursing degree, joined the headquarters at the National Healthcare Group, and completed my master’s degree before finally joining the Transitional Care Unit at TTSH.

I entered nursing by chance but I believe that it is truly a calling. No money can buy the experience and memories I've had in the profession, and I hope it will be the same for Shamira.

For her contributions to public service, Rujia was awarded the Public Service Medal (Pingat Bakti Masyarakat) in 2010 by the late President S R Nathan. To learn more about Rujia's story, visit https://video.toggle.sg/en/series/tuesday-report-the-nursing-story/ep3/467450.