I did not choose to be a nurse. I had always been laidback, especially so as a teenager. I did not have any career aspirations and dreams for the future. Aware of my relaxed attitude, my anxious parents pushed me towards nursing, believing it to be a stable career. Hence, I enrolled in the nursing course at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East after secondary school.
Even though I passed the entrance interview for the nursing course, I continued with my devil-may-care attitude... and graduated with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 1.9 after two years at ITE. At that point in time, I treated nursing like a job that helped bring home the bacon; nothing more. While I had a relatively low GPA compared to my peers, I believed that with more years of hard work and experience in the job, I would be given opportunities for upskilling and progression.
It was my first job at the Singapore General Hospital that changed my mind about nursing. As a ward nurse, I met an elderly patient who was in a vegetative state. Due to his condition, he was prone to infections and was constantly in and out of the hospital. The patient's family members had dedicated themselves to caring for him full time, taking shifts and even leaving their jobs. Each time the patient was readmitted, surprisingly, the family would choose my ward; they appreciated the care from my colleagues and me. They neither gifted us with lavish presents nor thanked us outwardly. Instead, what really made a difference was the way the family treated us with respect and took our opinions seriously.
From this point, my passion for nursing grew and I became more motivated to develop my career. I moved to Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), and grabbed every chance to upgrade myself with courses and programmes. I even took my O levels in 2014 to increase my eligibility for the polytechnic bridging (polytechnic diploma in nursing) course, which helped enrolled nurses become registered nurses. Unfortunately, going back to school after taking a break of eight years was not the easiest thing. I failed to meet the minimum entry requirement.
Thankfully, Lady Luck was on my side. The following year, news came about that the baseline requirements for enrolled nurses to enter the bridging course was lifted. As only one spot was available per department, I had to compete with my colleagues and go through an interview for the position. To my surprise, I managed to win the spot for the bridging course and graduated with a nursing diploma in 2019.
For my performance during the course, I was awarded the Singapore Nursing Board Award for Clinical Education in Nursing earlier this year in May. The award was unexpected as I had never been very good at academics! My only thoughts during the course were that I had to do my best, and not let anything hold me back in my career progression. After finding out about the win, my parents remarked: "See, I told you that you can study one." (laughs)
In SNEC, my job scope as an enrolled nurse was to assist the anaesthetist. To empower the enrolled nurses, we were given an extra role to plan and prepare the patients for surgery.
Of course, the final decision was made by the surgeon, but we were vital in the decision-making process. After becoming a registered nurse, I am now a scrub nurse who supports the surgeon directly during surgeries; I anticipate the needs of the surgeon and hand the instruments to him, hence reducing the time taken for the surgery. Every second is important when the patient is on the operating table and any misstep, however minor, could be fatal.
I enjoy being an active team player in the surgical team. As the operating theatre is a high-stress environment, being able to contribute and ensure smooth surgeries give me a sense of achievement every day. I would advise aspiring nurses to never stop learning and be defeated by failures, as the thirst for knowledge gives you the opportunity to progress to higher levels of education and career prospects.
I am SNEC Staff Nurse Jason Mok, and I choose to be a nurse.