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A listening heart


Institute of Mental Health Staff Nurse Khairul Aizat Abdul Razak

My journey as a mental health nurse has been enriching and challenging. It requires great amount of patience and understanding as my patients may be physically ill, in addition to their existing mental health conditions. They may not always respond to us and at times, even refuse to take their medication. Therefore, forging a bond with our patients becomes even more pertinent in order to coax them when it comes to treatment.

For me, there is never a dull day at work as my patients keep me on my toes at all times – in a good way. My job is to provide quality nursing care as well as educate patients and family members on how to manage mental and physical health issues. I also work with other healthcare professionals to provide integrated care. In addition, it is my duty to practise strict infection control measures to prevent the spread of any diseases.

Being a mental health nurse means that I stay alert to my patients’ mood and behaviour, and also seek to make the best decision possible at critical times. This gives me an adrenaline rush at work, and pushes me out of my comfort zone.

Being in psychiatric nursing taught Khairul to care for patients with a listening heart.

I remember the first time I administered an injection to an agitated patient to help calm him down. I was nervous, and afraid that I might get injured. However, with the encouragement from my colleagues, I brushed my fears aside and focused on the task at hand. They reaffirmed my ability to manage the situation and reminded me that after all, what we are doing is for the patient’s good. This really shifted my mindset. I learnt that my patients’ welfare is a priority, and that I should not let my fears and emotions hold me back from helping them. Now, I am much more confident in handling patients with similar behaviours.

Another patient whom I will never forget was this man in his mid-thirties. He was fair and lean, and always isolated himself from others. He refused to eat and drink. Instead, he always looked anxious and worried. My nursing instincts kicked in, and I knew I had to reach out to him. For a start, I spent time engaging in small talk with him – I asked him about his day, how he felt and also his life. After building a rapport, he finally opened up to me and told me the reason he felt depressed. Eventually, he felt better and agreed to eat and take his medications. Within a few days, he recovered and was discharged. He thanked me for caring for him, and I too thanked him for letting me into his world, and helping me to understand him better.

Khairul's biggest satisfaction is seeing his patients' health improve and eventually being fit for discharge.

A simple gesture such as lending a listening ear helps my patients de-stress, and lightens their mood – it gives them a safe space to express their feelings and frustrations. Seeing my patients’ conditions improve and the smiles on their faces during their discharge brings me great joy and satisfaction. It truly motivates me to do my best for them.

Through my work in psychiatric nursing, I have developed greater respect and empathy for patients with mental illnesses. Some of them shared with me how they had been mocked before. Truth be told, listening to what they had to go through hurts me too. That also spurs me on to understand them at a deeper level, and provide better care for them. Unknowingly, they have changed me into a much more relaxed and calmer person.

To Khairul, nursing is more than just bedside care.

In the last one year, my job has taught me that nursing is so much more than just providing bedside care. There are education opportunities, research and management skills to learn – all of which, when pooled together, are drivers to improve patient care.

Ongoing education is important for nurses, because expanding their knowledge on mental health (or in any other area of nursing) will facilitate effective decision-making on the job. Likewise, keeping up to date with new information and best nursing practices through research helps to transform our daily work, so that we can support patients well. Lastly, with good management and strong leadership, nurses work better as a team to provide patient care.

My name is Khairul Aizat, a Staff Nurse at the Institute of Mental Health. Nursing is a very exciting job where you get to help people from all walks of life, journey with them in their recovery and change their lives for the better. I hope to become a knowledgeable and experienced mental health nurse, providing quality care for my patients and helping new nurses see purpose in the meaningful work that we do.

*Catch Khairul in action on Care To Go Beyond's latest webisode here.