Angela Koh, 26, has been a nurse at Changi General Hospital for almost two years since she graduated with a Diploma in Nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic. She shares the truths behind what some may perceive to be a “lowly” job.
By Yong Yung Shin
What inspired you to become a nurse?
There are a few reasons. It all started with the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which made me realize that the easiest way to gain access to disaster zones to offer help is to hold a doctor’s or nursing license. I knew with my mediocre “A” Levels grades that I couldn’t be a doctor, so the next best thing was to be a nurse!
I also felt that nursing was my life’s calling. Before deciding to go into nursing, I looked at my life in retrospect, and realized that the things I participated in all the way through college had prepared me to be a nurse. I was in the Singapore Red Cross Society between ages nine to 16, during which I visited many homes for the elderly and the physically-disabled.
I was also working part-time as a clinic assistant after I graduated from college, where I picked up some nursing skills as well. I felt that there had to be a reason for God to put me through all that I have experienced, which was why I decided to become a nurse.
What’s a normal work day like?
My work is usually quite routine. Mainly I monitor the condition of my patients which can change on a day-to-day basis, and I have to respond to these changes quickly. Besides receiving and passing over of patients’ reports in between shifts, I feed them, tidy their beds, bathe them, serve them their medications, do blood tests and dress their wounds, I also have to follow up on their discharge plans from various institutes and medical personnel.
On top of that, I am responsible for implementing the changes ordered by the doctors as they make their rounds in the morning to review the patient. I also need to be present when the doctors are making their morning rounds so that I can discuss and suggest alternative treatments or management for my patient. I am grateful if my patient’s condition remains stable throughout my shift.
What are some of the misconceptions about being a nurse?
Contrary to general belief that the work of a nurse is a lowly job that doesn’t require much brains, nurses have to study as much as doctors! We need to be very knowledgeable in medical facts to be able to pick up any abnormalities or changes in patients, without which we would be unable to give the doctors accurate information.
We also have to learn psychology to monitor the mental state of our patients, as well as sociology to better understand society and how it affects our patients indirectly; we help bring in counselors or medical social workers when necessary, and look into the patient’s family dynamics to ensure more holistic care in addition to that provided by the medical staff.
What do you love best about your job?
Having the right to speak up for my patients. Sometimes, they are not able to communicate to the doctors their needs, and being nurses who observe them around the clock, we are able to pick up sudden changes in their condition, inform the doctor promptly and suggest alternative treatments or management plans in the patient’s best interest.
So finally, why do people tend to call nurses “missy”?
I am not very sure. Apparently back in the old days, when people addressed the nurses, they’d call them “Miss”. But the older people who were not English-educated couldn’t pronounce “Miss” properly, so they called them “Missy” instead.