It has been 50 years, but HCA Nursing Director Angela Tan distinctly remembers her first day in nursing. “I was so excited to put on my white uniform, white shoes and nurse cap,” Angela recalls fondly.
The veteran nurse was just 17 years old then, but she had set her sights on pursuing nursing as a career. “When I was young, I had a little brother who was sick and had to be hospitalised,” Angela shares. “I felt very sad and I cried whenever he cried.”
“I just wanted to make him feel better and I was really inspired by the nurses who cared for him.”
This early experience with illness motivated Angela to apply for nursing after completing her O-Levels. “I was so happy when I got accepted,” she shares. “I am quite petite, so my mother was concerned whether I could handle the physical aspects of the work.”
Journey of Independence
It was Angela’s first foray out of the comforts of home, as it was common practice then for nursing students to reside in a hostel in the course of their studies and practicum. “We started with three months of classroom lessons, before going straight to the ward to learn basic nursing skills,” she explains.
Despite the steep learning curve, Angela appreciates the hands-on experience. “I think the training scheme back then really helped us to build independence and sound judgment,” she says.
From cutting her teeth in the wards, to taking on crisis situations in medical rescue and venturing into community care, Angela is grateful for the learning opportunities nursing has accorded her. “From medical science to the art of serving patients and collaborating with other professionals to deliver care, nursing has given me a wide spectrum of learning opportunities,” she says. “Most importantly, I have learnt to face challenges with resilience.”
Angela recalls a difficult encounter with a supervisor, in her days as a junior nurse. “I was rostered to take on the night shift on my sister-in-law’s wedding day,” she recalls. “I tried explaining the situation and asking for a swap in shifts, but I was turned down.”
“I was leaving the week after to further my studies overseas, so I felt I missed out on precious time with my family.”
The incident cemented Angela’s resolve to be a more accommodating mentor, and to share in the joys and sorrows of her team, wherever possible.
Angela counts HCA as one of the greatest highlights of her career. “I feel that my stint at HCA is my best achievement thus far, and I am so thankful to be given an opportunity to serve in a leadership role,” she says.
For Angela, being in HCA has given her the opportunity to care for patients in the comfort of their homes, and also expand her vision for her nurses. “It is always a joy to help others, to spend time interacting with patients and listening to their stories,” she says.
“Community care is very different from inpatient nursing – in community care, there is more space for decision making, and we can exercise autonomy in working things out. I make it a point to gather my team’s inputs before implementing any changes.”
“There is lesser red tape, which allows things to move faster and improves our work satisfaction.”
It has been five decades since Angela first donned the nurse’s uniform, but her enthusiasm for the calling has not waned a single bit. “Nursing was my first choice, and I am thankful for the opportunity to learn and serve,” she says.
Final Words of Encouragement
As a trusted mentor and veteran nurse, Angela hopes that more people will consider nursing as a career.
“The heart of a nurse is full of compassion and passion. To all my nurses, I would like to say, you have done such a good job,” Angela shares. “You are my inspiration and our teamwork has enabled us to persevere through challenges.”
“In nursing, there are plenty of opportunities for career development and the wealth of knowledge we gain, is so fulfilling. The Lamp of Nightingale continues to burn bright, and I hope to see more people take up nursing as a career.”
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