Spanning 35 years as a nurse, Sr. Siew Gaik have witnessed many incidents. They range from suicide attempts to acute airway obstruction caused by cancerous tumors in the trachea, and even gunshot wounds.
One case that is still vivid in her mind was the massive bomb attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2004.
At that time, Sr. Siew Gaik was working as a staff nurse in the Department of Emergency Medicine. The first victim that she nursed was a gentleman in his early thirties who sustained severe facial blast injuries.
“We managed to secure his airway, established the IV line for fluid resuscitation and sent him for emergency surgical procedure for airway and facial reconstruction,” shared Sr. Siew Gaik. “Fortunately, he survived and was discharged home after staying in the hospital for months.”
When asked what inspired her to become a nurse, she said: “Nursing is an inner calling. I want to make a difference in people’s lives – a real difference where I get to save lives or make people feel better. I am also drawn to the many aspects of patient care and enjoy the variety in the routine, meeting different patients with various health concerns and tackling challenges that change every time I step into work daily.”
According to Sr. Siew Gaik, the plethora of work she is exposed to in her chosen field of specialty includes providing triage, diagnosis and care for trauma patients, and preventing secondary complications; handling serious injuries and illnesses, such as care accidents, suicide attempts and heart attacks; preparing patients for emergency operations etc.
“Trauma nurse must have mastered advanced assessment skills, monitoring heart rhythms, starting IVs, noticing changes in patient’s acuity, assisting surgeons during bedside procedures and most importantly, possess the ability to triage patients independently, educate patients and their families, and collaborate with other health care professionals,” shared Sr. Siew Gaik.
However, as like all jobs, not all are smooth sailing and Sr. Siew Gaik has faced many challenges as well. During her time as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, language was the biggest problem for her but she eventually overcame it.
“While I spoke Arabic with an accent, being able to speak the same language as my patients helped me become less foreign and allowed me to obtain critical information. It is important that we are able to relay information back to the patient,” Sr. Siew Gaik recounted.
“Nurses who have similar cultural backgrounds are typically better-positioned to provide culturally competent care. Therefore, I made great effort to learn Arabic from my fellow colleagues and consciously practiced Arabic with patients,” she added.
Asked what she would say to aspiring nurses, Sr. Siew Gaik brought up an interesting concept and that is the 5 ‘C’s in nursing. They are:
Nurses advocate for health promotion, educate patients and public on the prevention of illness and injury, provide care and participate in rehabilitation and provide support.
“No other health care professional has such a broad and far reaching role,” she emphasized.
When having been a nurse for more than three decades, Sr. Siew Gaik acknowledges that the nursing industry is changing at a rapid rate and is no longer what it used to be three decades ago.
With shifting technology, an aging population and ever increasing demand on healthcare services and advances in medical treatment, nurses are now required to stay on top of the profession with knowledge and awareness of medical procedures.
But according to Sr. Siew Gaik, the core of what makes a nurse will never change, and that is the 5 ‘C’s.
“Nurses will continue to provide direction and raise higher standards of education. We will also continue to improve nursing standards as demonstrated through the simple act of handwashing; proving that good hygiene can prevent infection and save lives.”
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