Alexandra Hospital nurses reflect on the ups and downs of their careers in new book

Chief nurse Margaret Lee (left) and nurse manager Kelvin Chong.
Chief nurse Margaret Lee (left) and nurse manager Kelvin Chong.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Nurse manager Kelvin Chong does not need reminding of the challenges, pain and heartbreak that occur every day in a busy hospital, given his experiences on both sides of the picture.

Mr Chong, who is featured in a new book heralding the efforts of Alexandra Hospital (AH) nurses before and during the pandemic, has joined other front-liners to help fight H1N1, Zika and Covid-19, of course, over the past 14 years.

His inspiration for becoming a nurse came after a health crisis about 20 years ago, when he broke both his legs in an accident and was confined to a hospital ward for two months.

Mr Chong, who was then a salesman, could not walk for a year after that and was asked to leave by his employer.

It was during this period that he reflected on his experiences. His elder brother was also a nurse and this eventually motivated him to train to join the profession.

Mr Chong, 40, started his nursing career at the National University Hospital (NUH) before transferring to AH three years ago, where he is now nurse manager at the 24-7 urgent care centre.

At the peak of Covid-19, he and his wife, an NUH nurse, were unable to care for their sons, who were then six months old and eight years old, so they had to seek help from the children's grandparents.

These experiences taught Mr Chong to become more appreciative of life. He said: "Life is unpredictable especially when you see how Covid-19 has changed humanity. I treasure life with these small gestures to remind me of life's unpredictability. It gives you a sense of strength and you can carry on."

Mr Chong's experiences are featured in the new book Missy Reflections, which was launched on Wednesday (March 31) at AH. Missy is a colloquial term for nurse.

The book's creation was lead by chief nurse Margaret Lee, 44.

She said: "As nurses, we are in a privileged position to connect with people from all walks of life in the course of our work.

"Lessons come alive in our practice environment through the patients we care for, the caregivers we support and the colleagues from all job groups we collaborate with in the service of health and healthcare."

She hopes the book will allow the public to understand more about the nursing profession. She said: "I really hope that if we can share this with the wider community, it will serve to not just aspire but let them have different viewpoints of nursing."

AH nurses conceived, wrote and edited the book, while the hospital's medical board chairman, Associate Professor Khoo See Meng, provided the illustrations.

It features 61 reflections on the profession from 55 nurses, including two from the post-war British military colonial administration.

The book is available on the AH website.

Case 74, the first Covid-recovered patient, who wished to be known only as Mr Ng, presented a bouquet of sunflowers to Ms Lee at the launch.

Missy Reflections, which was launched at AH on March 31, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

(From left) Chief nurse Margaret Lee, nurse manager Kelvin Chong, Covid-19 patient case 74 and senior nurse clinician Tan Poh Hoon. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Mr Ng, a 30-year-old welding consultant, vividly remembered that when he was in hospital between mid-February and early March last year, the nurses would sit outside the wards at 11.30pm to ensure that patients did not fall when they got up at night. Some of those nurses did this while on their break.

"To me, this image is the strongest, as even in their break time, they... do it outside the wards, and I think that speaks volumes of their care and love for the patients."

AH chief executive Jason Phua noted at the launch: "Nurses, like all of us, are also human, and it is actually incredibly difficult to be always beside a patient or a family that is suffering.

"It is uplifting and inspiring in a way, but it also difficult and draining at the same time. I am sure the nurses feel it even more because they are always with the patients.

"They say heroes come in capes. I say no, heroes come in nursing scrubs."