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From Mass Communications to Nursing: How Delphine Chen Discovered Her True Passion

As a Senior Staff Nurse, Delphine manages her patients' progress and discharge planning through her case management and guides the junior Nurses in their daily work.

It all started when Delphine completed her studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and it was time for her to choose what undergraduate course to take.

According to Delphine, "I wanted to contribute to society through my work in a meaningful and lasting way. While I enjoyed mass communications, I believe it is good for me to have multiple skill sets by expanding my horizons."

So when Delphine Chen told her parents that she was looking to take up a degree in nursing, they were shocked to say the least. This was because, at the time, Delphine had graduated with a Diploma in Mass Communications from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

And as the nursing profession calls for a tremendous amount of sacrifice, they wondered whether their daughter would be able to cope with the challenges of nursing as a career.

Taking a New Direction in Life

During her search, Delphine secured a clinical attachment and volunteering opportunities at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) which broadened her views on what it was like working in a medical setting.

Despite the sudden change in her career path, Delphine found herself adapting easily to life in the hospital. As it turned out, her background in mass communications and personable nature would serve her well. She used her communication skills to build rapport with patients and colleagues.

"One of the things I enjoyed about my clinical attachment was making patients feel better. Even with so many compassionate doctors and nurses taking care of them, it's easy for patients to get lonely. I've always enjoyed connecting with others, so being able to interact with and help people was a highly enriching experience."

Besides her attachment, she also volunteered with the TTSH mobile library group. This allowed Delphine to better understand the work of the nurses through seeing their daily work during the group's rounds.

The group would distribute magazines and reading materials to bedridden patients at TTSH. During the group's rounds, Delphine would chat with patients and keep them company.

All the months spent volunteering would inspire Delphine to consider a career in nursing. And as for her parents, Delphine sat them down and carefully explained why she was making a change.

"My parents saw the amount of effort I put in volunteering at the hospital. And my parents were impressed with the preparation and effort I put into understanding the world of nursing. They said that if I was willing to sacrifice so much time and energy, then nursing is probably the right choice for me."

Pursuing a Nursing Degree at NUS

With her parents' support, Delphine sent in her application to the National University of Singapore (NUS) where she was accepted into the Bachelor of Science (Nursing) (Honours) degree programme at the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies.

The 4-year degree programme combines elements of academic and clinical learning. The course of study covers a variety of health concepts, including anatomy, pharmacology, nursing concepts, psychology and other relevant skills.

As an honours student, she was actively involved in learning various research methods and completing her own thesis during the honours year.

Delphine's time at NUS also provided her with a number of interesting opportunities. One of these was an exchange programme with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Delphine and her fellow nursing students visited nursing homes and hospitals around Hong Kong to help them understand how the healthcare system works and the various challenges faced by them.

Delphine and her fellow nursing students at the Hong Kong Fire Services Department. Photo: Delphine Chen

Besides visiting healthcare facilities, they had the opportunity to visit the Hong Kong Fire Services Department, who showed them a variety of emergency equipment used by the paramedics.

As part of her course at NUS, Delphine was also required to go for a number of clinical attachments. One of the attachments, which was at TTSH, exposed her to community nursing and Delphine beamed with excitement as she talked about what she had learned.

She said, "Community nursing can ease the bed crunch issue in acute wards by providing continual care outside of a hospital setting. All of which would then help to reduce patient readmission in the long-term."

"It is one of the reasons why I applied for the Community Nursing Scholarship as I want to help older patients stay healthy and age gracefully through my work and care. I also want to improve the quality of life for my patients – especially those who are recuperating at home or living with chronic diseases."

Thanks to her excellent grades and attitude, Delphine was awarded the Community Nursing Scholarship (Mid-Term) during the third year of her studies.

Career Development and Moving into Community Nursing

Upon her graduation from NUS, Delphine would serve a 4-year bond at TTSH as a staff nurse in the general medicine and sub-acute ward, where she honed her clinical skills. After that, she moved to the TTSH's Community Health Team, which conducted outpatient home visits for newly discharged patients and community cases.

Her next posting was at TTSH's rehabilitation ward, which provides rehabilitation care to patients within an inpatient setting. Here, Delphine cares for her patients by working with a multidisciplinary team to develop and manage patient care plans.

As a senior staff nurse, she is also responsible for mentoring and imparting knowledge to her junior colleagues.

Like most healthcare professionals in hospitals worldwide, Delphine works on a shift basis. There are 3 different shifts, i.e., day, noon, and night. While jarring at first, she has since learnt how to balance her time and rest schedule.

"Shift work can be tricky at first, but you will get used to it quickly. With proper time management, I find that it's actually easier to get things done. It's all about prioritising your tasks and managing your time properly."

Given the demanding nature of her work, it's also vital for Delphine to learn how to relax and recuperate. In her case, she enjoys yoga and meditation, which helps relieve stress and clears her mind.

When it comes to her work, Delphine has found that her background in mass communications provided her with a variety of value-added skills which have come into their own several times.

"Mass communication gave me the skills needed to interact and work with people. I find that a lot of the techniques I've learned can be used in nursing. This includes getting people to open up about themselves and be honest with you. That's because most patients respond positively when you show interest in them. In fact, some patients are rather engaging once you break the ice!"

Challenges and Meaningful Moments

In her daily work, Delphine also educates patients in their medications regime to help them better understand their medications administration. Photo: The patient in this photo is fictional and taken only for the purposes of this article.

While she enjoys her work immensely, it is not without its fair share of challenges. For one, patients can sometimes be uncooperative. Some are influenced by materials found on the web and social media and try to reason with the nurses and doctors on duty.

"When that happens, I choose to listen to the patient and then encourage them to think critically. I ask them to confirm their sources and question how trustworthy such information is. Most end up coming around when they realise that what they've believed isn't accurate."

On another occasion, Delphine and her colleagues had a rather poignant encounter with a patient who was living alone.

"I was with some colleagues on a home visit, and before we left, I noticed that he kept his television on in the bedroom despite no one being there. I asked if he need help in switching the television off. He explained that he was nearing the end of his life and had no friends or relatives left. So, hearing the voices from the television made him feel a lot less lonely and brought him back to better times."

"So, I decided to stay behind and talk to the patient for a few minutes. I got him to open up and he told me all about his life and experiences. He even mentioned how he wasn't afraid of death anymore and that he was more than ready to move on. He was just glad that at the end of his life, he still had a group of passionate community nurses and doctors visiting him."

This revelation reminded Delphine of the critical role played by nurses in the healthcare sector and how the smallest actions can make all the difference in a patient's life.

This is why Delphine believes in going the extra-mile for all of her patients, no matter what it takes. While some patients may not recover, helping others get better makes everything worthwhile.

One of the fondest memories she has from her time as a community nurse comes from a chance encounter with a little boy and his grandfather.

 "I was out for lunch and a little boy with a shy smile came up to me and said that his grandfather wanted to say thank you to me. I looked over, and I saw one of my former patients sitting at a table looking healthier than ever."

"These small moments make the stress and tiredness worth it, and to me, that's more than enough of a reward on its own."

A Passion for Community Nursing

Delphine intends to continue working as a nurse in the Community Care sector where she can continue to improve the quality of life of her patients and provide them with high quality nursing care.

And for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she says, "Nursing is a demanding profession with its own rewards. You must be compassionate and eager to learn new things all the time. Things will get messy, but if you can keep a calm head and work your way through, you can rise above it all. Remember: being resilient helps you navigate any challenging situation."

Inspired by Delphine's story and want to be a force of change in the community? Then you may want to consider a Community Nursing Scholarship.

MOH Holdings (MOHH) is currently offering scholarships to nurture the next generation of community nursing leaders. It is offered in partnership with public healthcare institutions and community care providers. For more details, check out this page.