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#CouragetoCareSG: A career switch with no regrets


Ethan Chong, Staff Nurse, Ren Ci Hospital

When I learnt that I would be on the front line during this COVID-19 outbreak, my immediate concern was how it would affect my loved ones, particularly my elderly parents who live with me. Would I be a carrier of the virus? Should I consider moving out temporarily? Did I make the right career switch into nursing? I’m sure thousands of healthcare workers must have felt the same fear as I did. Yet, we soldiered on despite the trying circumstances.

My decision to switch to nursing had been in the making since my second year at university. Back then, I witnessed how nurses took such great care of my grandmother at the nursing home. I finally took the leap of faith eight years ago, leaving my previous job as an auditor. Since then, I had a new personal ‘mission’: To help my patients get well so that they can go home healthy and happy.

I care for patients with dementia in the sub-acute geriatric ward. Their conditions mean that they may not be oriented to the day, time or location, let alone the COVID-19 situation. As my patients are mostly elderly, they are more vulnerable to the virus. Their safety is my responsibility. This is why I comply strictly with infection control protocols.

If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is that we have received endless love and encouragement. Sometimes it comes in the form of sponsored bento sets for us from our management and also other kind-hearted sponsors. At other times, it is the complimentary cuppa for all healthcare workers every week from the café at our hospital. Members of our senior management also make it a point to check in on us and acknowledge the work that we do.

Now that we are in Phase 2 safe reopening, the situation has stabilised and the number of daily cases has decreased. As healthcare workers, we are still on our toes and strictly abide by all precautionary measures.

What continues to warm my heart in today’s times are my patients. I have a patient who always says hello to me ever so kindly whenever I make my rounds. As a veteran in the shipping industry, he loves reminiscing about his good old days at work with me. We’ve developed a close friendship, and the conversations between us (peppered with Hokkien and Mandarin) are really candid. I’m glad to see him getting better with rehabilitation and medication. I look forward to the day he will be back in the comfort of his own home.

My number one supporter will always be my family. They have been there for me since day one when I made the decision to switch to nursing. My mother always asks if I want supper but will then tease me about my growing waistline… tough love, haha. My friends will also check in on me, treat me to snacks and remind me to stay safe.

It is with their encouragement that I keep myself afloat in this turbulent situation. Switching career path wasn’t easy, but through many heartwarming moments with my patients, I feel that no other job can quite match the level of fulfillment and sense of purpose as this one – nursing.

As cliché as it may sound, the biggest lesson I have taken away from this pandemic is that we should take nothing for granted (not even the air we breathe!) and, as what Marie Kondo would say, to live a life that sparks joy.

I’m Ethan Chong, and I’m a Staff Nurse from Ren Ci Hospital. Making the transition to being a healthcare professional is the best decision I have made in my life.

If I ever look back at my life, I know for sure that I made the right choice being a healthcare professional.