The Singaporean Lady With The Lamp

It would not be possible to praises nurses too highly – Stephen Ambrose. We talk to a student who has answered the noble profession’s call and her plans for the future.

By Farhan Shah

Much like Florence Nightingale, celebrated English nurse, 21-year-old Amy Kok wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and carve out a meaningful career. While Florence Nightingale was influenced by the call of God, Amy’s head was turned when she went for a 1-week nursing placement in a hospital, during her time as an officer in the St. John’s Brigade.

“During the placement, my perspectives on helping people changed dramatically. I felt inadequate because I was surrounded by sick people but I lacked the skills to look after them. It was that experience which aroused my interest in pursuing an enriching career in Nursing,” Amy shares.

The Virtue of Determination
With her ambitions all mapped out, Amy went about the task of securing the Ministry of Health (MOH) Health Science Scholarship, which she had read about in the BrightSparks magazine. The odds were stacked against her; she was competing against other applicants who had better academic records than her and she hailed from one of the neighbourhood JCs, not the typical top JCs that you constantly hear about in the newspapers.

However, that didn’t deter the plucky youngster. Like Calvin Coolidge, the 30th American president, who once said, “The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race”, Amy pressed on, impressing the panel of scholarship interviewers with her passion and determination.

Amy distinctly remembers the day when her email inbox beeped with the arrival of the good news. It took all of her strength not to scream and dance all over the place when she read it. “I frequently checked my email after the interview and when the day the email came bearing good tidings, I was over the moon!” Amy exclaims, her head rocking with laughter.

With the scholarship safely tucked into her metaphorical bag, Amy travelled the short distance to Monash University in Australia, where she is now majoring in Nursing.

Life-Changing Experiences
She is thankful to the scholarship for allowing her to experience life beyond the confines of our tiny island. “It has allowed me to gain many new perspectives which would not have been possible if I had chosen to clam up and keep to myself,” Amy says.

She has also become more adaptable and resilient to obstacles and challenges, all valuable qualities that will serve her well in the future. She mentions one of her modules, ‘Nursing, Society and Culture’ as one of the most incredible influences in her life as it introduced her to the history of Nursing and how the image of Nursing has developed to what it is today thanks to the government, the media, and the nurses themselves.

In fact, this module has given her much food for thought about what she hopes to do when she graduates. Despite her youth, the scholar has many ideas fermenting in her mind which she hopes to implement in the future.

The Vibrancy of Youth
One of the things she wants to achieve is to radically change people’s misconception about Nursing, which she feels strongly about evident in the way she animatedly talks about it.

“Many youths are not exposed to what nurses do. Many television shows also portray nurses in a negative light, making them look insignificant. However, there’s so much more to nursing than what they see and a lot of the things nurses do are based on extensive research. It is vital to make others aware of what nurses do and how meaningful and rewarding nursing can be. Nursing is so much more than looking after sick people,” Amy says.

One of the steps that Amy puts forth to sow the seeds for change is to begin at the grassroots level, specifically in primary school. “We always hear about school kids talking about wanting to be a teacher, policeman or a pilot but definitely not a nurse,” she says, her eyes glinting with excitement.

“We can use the media as a platform,” Amy continues, “tell people the real story of a day in the life of a nurse. At the secondary school and JC level, more aggressive road shows and career talks on nursing can be implemented. The whole idea is to let the potential candidate out there know there is an exciting career in nursing!”

Amy’s experiences in Australia have also opened her eyes to the nursing practices in other countries. While she admits that Australia’s healthcare costs are cheaper than in Singapore, she stresses that citizens in Singapore have much more convenient access to healthcare, with everything, from consultation to medicine available in one spot, unlike Australia.

However, one of the issues that she hopes to look at in future is to reduce healthcare costs among the people that need it the most, i.e.: the elderly folk. “There have been quite a number of newspaper articles and debate on how to lower the cost of healthcare. The government has been looking into means testing to tackle healthcare costs to make it more affordable for the lower income group,” shares Amy.

I’m A Nurse
It’s quite refreshing to meet a youth who doesn’t have the ‘me first’ mentality, putting the needs of others before herself just like the fore-mother of Nursing, Florence Nightingale herself.

Amy sums up her experiences thus far. “The MOH Health Science Scholarship is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to take on noble professions. When people ask what I do, instead of saying ‘I’m just a nurse’, I will proudly say with confidence that ‘I’m a nurse,” she concludes with a smile.

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