It all began when I was a little girl. As I grew up in a family of healthcare workers, I was fed a diet of stories about hospitals and patients. My mother, a nurse, was passionate about upgrading her nursing knowledge and used to bring me along whenever she went for health talks. She must have faced a multitude of challenges as a nurse, but I have never once heard her utter a word of complaint. As a child, I marvelled at her perseverance and devotion at wanting to do good, despite negative perceptions of the profession.
When Singapore was hit by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, my mother, who had cared for infected patients, had to be quarantined. That was when it struck me: Nurses are the only ones who would stick by their patients’ side during life-and-death situations. If they are not there for patients, who will?
A healthcare attendant, my late grandmother also shared plenty of anecdotes with me. She was fluent in various dialects, and even taught me simple phrases in these dialects! I grew to have a soft spot for the elderly because of her, and it eventually led me to community nursing.
My decision to become a nurse did not go down well with everyone around me. They were bewildered by my decision – my classmates did not understand why I chose nursing with my good grades, and my parents were concerned that I had made a rash decision. Despite feeling disheartened by the negative comments, I trudged ahead, knowing that it was what I truly wanted. My parents were finally convinced when they saw my determination, and gave me their blessings to study nursing.
Nursing is special as it goes beyond applying the technical skills that we learn in school – it requires us to analyse, assess and detect every situation placed before us. Besides being the first line of contact for patients and their families, we inform and provide suggestions to other healthcare professionals. We also act as a listening ear for our patients and offer resources to help if they encounter any issues. These soft skills are crucial in cultivating a good patient-nurse relationship.
As a community nurse today, I take clinical care beyond the hospital. I visit patients who are recuperating in their homes, and build bonds with family members while teaching them how to care for their loved ones. There have been tough days for sure, but seeing my patients’ and their families’ smiles is what makes my nursing journey count.
Till this day, I have never forgotten my first brush with death. A patient had been hospitalised for a long period of time due to multiple infections. When she finally heard that she could be discharged, she was over the moon – especially since it was close to Christmas! She was in high spirits on the day of her discharge.
However, tragedy struck when I was doing my rounds just before lunch. She was lying motionlessly on her bed. My team of nurses and I rushed over to attempt resuscitation while waiting for the doctor to arrive. Unfortunately, she did not survive. Breaking the news to her daughter was one of the hardest things I had to do. She had thought she was bringing her mother home for the festive season. How do you tell someone that they had lost their loved one?
A few days later, the patient’s daughter came by to thank us with gifts. She handed me a teddy bear with my name on it, thanking me for giving her closure and helping her grieve properly. That was one of the top moments of my nursing journey. I am Rabiah Tul Adauwiyah Ahmad Johari, a Senior Staff Nurse from the Home Nursing Foundation. When I first joined nursing, people had asked if I had chosen the profession, or the other way round. I am proud to say that I chose to be a nurse, bringing patient care closer to home.