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To teach is to learn


Meet Dr Siriwan Lim, Senior Lecturer at the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies

One of the things I often tell my students is this: "Be willing to adopt different learning strategies if the current one does not bring you results."

This was truly the case for my colleagues and I when Singapore moved to full home-based learning in April last year – we adopted online teaching methods for about one semester. At the end of it, the students shared that while they liked the convenience of learning online, they missed the face-to-face interaction with tutors and classmates. Honestly, so did us.  

Thinking ahead, my co-module lead – Dr Tanushri Roy – and I decided to pilot a hybrid learning model for tutorial sessions where half the class could be present physically while the others tuned in online. We also wanted to create a seamless and integrated approach for students to put theory into practice by aligning the tutorial scenario with our nursing laboratory practice sessions.

Ahead of the session, Dr Tanushri and I attended training on hybrid learning, and gained some hands-on experience in conducting such lessons. It gave us some ideas on how we could kick-start this programme and ensure that it was interactive enough for both groups of students.

These days, Dr Siriwan conducts nursing lab sessions in smaller groups, augmented with in-house videos and hybrid tutorials featuring case-based scenarios.

A little change could go a long way… From introducing clinical scenarios to quizzes and facilitating group discussions, I made full use of this hybrid learning method to enhance my students' learning experience. Our hard work eventually paid off, when students feedbacked that they appreciated this mode of learning better as opposed to a completely virtual session.

To test their critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills, I like to play the role of a devil's advocate by introducing scenarios during laboratory sessions that are not part of the initial case studies. Sometimes, I do it to make the session more interesting and fun. More importantly, it serves to emphasize that nursing and patient care are not just about mastering a procedure. I want my students to learn to be thorough in their assessment, planning, as well as when carrying out procedures so that patient safety is not compromised.

Before the pandemic, I also initiated a peer mentoring system where second-, third- and final-year students could volunteer to help their juniors practise their skills during self-directed learning lab sessions. I felt extremely touched to see the overwhelming response from the seniors. It was truly the icing on the cake when I saw more than 98% of my first-year students pass their practical assessment with highly positive feedback about their performances from the assessors. 

Blast from the past… Dr Siriwan (fifth from right) and her critical care coursemates and tutors at the former School of Nursing.

Before progressing into teaching, I had been a nurse for 12 years – I joined nursing in 1989! Motivated by my aunt in Thailand, I pursued nursing as I wanted a career that would allow me to connect with people and make a difference to society. As chance would have it, I received a scholarship from Singapore's Ministry of Health to pursue nursing.

Back in those days, I specialised in critical care as I wanted to challenge myself after about two years working as a junior nurse in the surgical ward at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). Ms Chen Yen Yen, my former nursing officer, was extremely supportive – she even lent me her study materials on critical care and mechanical ventilators when I got into the course! She was definitely one of my mentors who has played an important role in teaching and guiding me during the early years of my nursing journey.

Guess which is Dr Siriwan ☺

My first brush with teaching came years later when my former nurse manager at SGH's neuro-surgical intensive care unit, Ms Susan Loh, gave me the opportunity to run an orientation programme for enrolled nurses who just joined our unit. Subsequently, I supervised nursing students who were attached to the ward. These two stints made me realise my passion for teaching. Ms Loh saw my interest then, and motivated me to progress into nursing education as the next step in career advancement. Thus, I moved to SGH's Training and Development department and became a Clinical Instructor. I am grateful for all that Ms Loh has done for me. Without her, I would not be where I am today.

Training nurses in a healthcare setting involves real patients whereas in school, the students learn nursing procedures in a safer environment where they can experiment, make mistakes and learn from their errors. I often encourage my students to keep practising until they are competent and confident to handle the real deal – that is most important!

My name is Dr Siriwan Lim, Senior Lecturer at the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the National University of Singapore. To me, nursing is a marathon, not a sprint. I would like to encourage my students – new, current and even past students – to continue being a lifelong learner. One final advice: Always keep an open mind, and be adaptable to constant change.