Mastering the He(art) of Nursing
Like what Florence Nightingale said, “Nursing is an art; and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter or sculptor’s work.” Farrer Park Hospital (FPH)’s dedicated Nurse Managers (NM) P Kalai Selvi and Cheong Mee Foong can attest to this, as seen in the decades they spent dedicating to their jobs.
NM Kalai’s journey at FPH began when she decided to scale up, making a decision to move beyond her regular duties as a nurse, but to lead a team of nurses. Having been an endoscopy nurse for over 20 years, NM Kalai wanted to step out of her comfort zone and grow her career. When she was offered the position to be part of the founding member of the Endoscopy Suite at FPH, she accepted it without hesitation.
“I spent over 20 years in various restructured hospitals. I was looking for more challenging work to do when the opportunity (at FPH) arise,” NM Kalai shared.
“It was challenging because it is a new medical institution but we had a wonderful team,” NM Kalai recalls, “I truly enjoyed the bonds forged with the rest of my colleagues. Leading a team comes with its own set of challenges but the support from my team made it easy.”
For NM Mee Foong, the role at FPH was introduced to her by chance. She wanted a job where she could be near her family in Malaysia; working in Singapore allowed that. However, the role offered to her was beyond what she thought she could handle – but she took up the challenge anyway.
“When I first joined FPH in October 2013, I was offered the role of a Nurse Clinician. I didn’t have any experience in management or the likes of it. But thankfully, I have a very supportive boss – that gave me a lot of assurance,” NM Mee Foong shared.
Having been an ICU nurse for most of her career, NM Mee Foong had her reservations about expanding her profession to manage a team but with the career development opportunities she received, things worked out.
“The person I am now is completely different from the nurse I was 20 years ago. From caring for patients to setting up a unit from scratch, looking for manpower and interacting with various stakeholders – I’m a totally different person now,” NM Mee Foong exclaimed. Of course, she noted that the change was positive.
“From the first time we set foot in the hospital, wearing all the safety gear (during construction phase) to perform site inspections to present day – we have all grown so much,” NM Kalai shared.
Asked how they feel about the hospital reaching its first major milestone, NM Kalai said: “I truly love the close relationships that everyone share with one another. We are like a home. Everyone knows one another well. If I have the energy, I’ll definitely be here for another 10 or 20 years.”
“It is true. As one of the ‘Gen 1’ staff at FPH, I dare say that the things can go smoothly because of the teamwork here,” NM Mee Foong expressed.
“Being a Nurse Manager here at FPH allows me to lead my team of nurses and teach them the ropes. As nurses, we are trained to listen to doctors but this is not necessarily right all the time. We must be a patient advocate and stand up when there is a care concern. Going for morning rounds with my team allows me to guide my team,” NM Mee Foong shared.
“I learned this from my boss. Without his guidance, I will not be the person I am today,” the motherly figure-like nurse manager expressed.
When asked what does nursing mean to her, the ICU nurse manager said: “It is very simple. It has always been my wish to help my patients and care for them. I love my job as a nurse and this will never change.”
For NM Kalai, nursing is a noble job. Emphasizing this, she said: "We need to show compassion and at and same time, assertive. I find contentment when patients under our care recovers and goes back home."