While many are averse to change, some bravely opt for a leap of faith, embarking on a new trajectory in life. Within this cohort of risk-takers, there are those who choose to devote themselves to caring for those in need and Faith Tan, a Nurse Manager at Yishun Community Hospital, stands out as one such bold individual.
If there is one word that encapsulates Faith’s life journey, it would undoubtedly be ‘change’. In my interview with the 50-year-old, I was surprised to learn about her extensive experience across diverse industries before transitioning to a career in nursing.
Armed with a Diploma in Business Studies from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, her career kicked off at NTUC Healthcare, where she assisted with the recruitment of new personnel and the opening of retail pharmacy outlets.
Even at that early stage, Faith displayed a penchant for breaking expectations set for her and she subsequently ventured into male-dominated fields like logistics, supply chain management, and shipping. In 2000, Faith found an opportunity in the telecom sector, joining Singtel’s international carrier services division.
Yet, it was during this time that she realised something was amiss and the satisfaction that she once derived from work began to wane, which she jokingly identified as her mid-life crisis.
Transitioning into the healthcare sector
With her newfound drive, she decided to step out of her comfort zone and leave the private sector, where she landed a job in a caregiver support centre at TOUCH Community Services, working closely with members of the home nursing and medical team.
I was 30 years old when I decided I wanted a job that goes beyond dollars and cents. I thought of my legacy and what would bring meaning and purpose to my life.Faith Tan, Nurse Manager at Yishun Community Hospital
One might question Faith’s decision to switch careers might be due to the initial novelty of working in an unfamiliar industry and that her interest might wane in time. But her experience with TOUCH Community Services lit a spark within her that never went away – to dedicate herself to caring for others, especially the less fortunate.
“My time with them also taught me the importance of managing caregiver stress and home modification. At that time, I was amazed at the seemingly never-ending list of things to learn about the healthcare industry, and that probably made me realise that healthcare might be the right path for me,” explained Faith.
Faith described her experience as humbling, as many of her clients stayed in one-room rental flats. Her interactions with them provided valuable insights, spurring her interest to continue her journey into the healthcare industry.
The timing ended up working out for Faith as she found out about a career switch to nursing and allied health programme by Workforce Singapore (WSG) through her friend.
Faith registered her interest, and eventually received a sponsorship offer from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), which helped her to complete the Accelerated Diploma programme and become a qualified nurse in 2011.
After a year of working as a full-time nurse, Faith decided to pursue further education through a three-year part-time degree programme. This period proved to be both enriching and demanding for Faith as she juggled work alongside her studies. Nevertheless, she managed to successfully complete her degree programme in less than two years.
She is thankful that her loved ones were supportive of her career switch, despite initial concerns from her family about the transition to shift work and her ability to adapt academically after more than a decade away from formal education.
Continuous learning and upskilling to be a better nurse
Driven by an unwavering commitment to enhance the quality of care for her patients, Faith took it upon herself to embark on a journey of continuous upskilling.
For one, she enrolled in a digital healthcare programme for adult learners, enriching her understanding of the healthcare ecosystem and fostering relationships with her fellow course mates who continue to share valuable information and insights to this day.
Additionally, Faith pursued training courses to become a certified clinical instructor, enabling her to teach, assess, nurture, and mentor both students and colleagues. These courses equipped her with valuable insights and techniques to comprehend the needs of learners, fostering teamwork and creating a more supportive work environment. She also obtained a separate certification to serve as an instructor in Basic Cardiac Life Support.
In 2020, Faith received the Nurses’ Merit Award. This award celebrates nurses who have displayed noteworthy and exceptional performance, participated in professional development as well as contributed to the promotion of the nursing profession. She expressed her gratitude to her superiors, who submitted the nomination for the award.
The recognition made me feel appreciated for the efforts I put into my work, and that motivated me to do better each day.Faith Tan, Nurse Manager at Yishun Community Hospital
Last year, Faith joined Yishun Community Hospital to delve deeper into the community care sector. She wanted to understand the role of community hospitals in preparing patients for life at home, and also inspire more nurses to join the community care sector.
In her current role as Nurse Manager in a Surgical Subacute/Neuro Rehabilitation Ward, Faith wears multiple hats – a nurse manager, clinician and educator – which has helped her remain grounded and humble to keep up with the new changes in the industry.
The rapidly changing healthcare system coupled with demands of the pandemic has reinforced her belief in the importance of continuous learning and staying current.
Her passion for nursing pushed her through difficult times
In her early days as a nurse, Faith was assigned to work in Geriatric care, which involved tending to elderly patients.
While caring for her patients, she was humbled by their wisdom through the stories they shared with her. She added that her learnings go beyond what medical textbooks could offer, and she was able to emotionally connect with them despite their age difference.
“The things they cherish and value in life are similar to what most people feel are important too,” said Faith.
She acknowledged that caring for elderly patients comes with its own set of challenges, including handling outbursts from Sundown Syndrome – a state of confusion, restlessness and agitation found in patients with dementia – to which she emphasised the importance of having a ‘humanitude’ approach.
“Know your patients, know their likes and dislikes, work with their caregivers and engage their help. With the necessary support and teamwork, Sundown syndrome is manageable,” said Faith.
The COVID-19 pandemic added another layer of pressure to Singapore’s healthcare industry, particularly during the first circuit breaker in 2020. Despite her commitment to patient care, the immense strain took a toll on many nurses, and Faith was no exception.
Despite the physical and emotional challenges of the job, her passion in nursing continues to empower her to provide better care for her own loved ones. She shared that her experience allows her to explain the ins and outs of the industry to others and prepare them for the possible outcomes.
This also helped her in detecting early signs of serious injuries, as she recounted an incident when a friend sought advice about a wound that was healing extremely slowly.
Things took an unexpected turn when her friend sent a picture of her father’s seemingly harmless wound, prompting an urgent trip to the hospital. Despite the distress, Faith offered comfort and guided her friend through the hospital procedures and recovery plans for her father.
He was eventually warded at an acute hospital, underwent rehabilitation at a community hospital, and has since recovered well. “Had I been a layperson, I do not think I would ever be able to help in the same way,” reflected Faith.
Make a career switch to join nursing like Faith
With two decades of nursing experience, Faith has learnt many meaningful life lessons that she hopes to pass down to young and aspiring nurses.
When asked about her criteria for being a good nurse, she emphasised the importance of humility and the drive to continually learn. Patience, resilience and grit are also essential qualities one should possess to become a nurse.
If we want to make a difference in the lives of others, we need to stick around in the system long enough to see things through. We are the ones we have been waiting for.Faith Tan, Nurse Manager at Yishun Community Hospital
She also stressed the importance of self-awareness and advised individuals to build their skills from the ground-up and understand their physical thresholds before contemplating a mid-career switch.
Acknowledging the inherent challenges of nursing, Faith admitted that there are moments when individuals may feel demoralised, especially when confronted with the fragility of life. She believes that fellow nurses can serve as pillars of strength providing support – not just in one’s professional journey, but also in personal life and emotional well-being.
Looking ahead, Faith envisions learning and growing further in her role over the next two to three years. She expresses her desire to expand her current role as a mentor, acknowledging that younger nurses may be the ones caring for her in the future.
On that note, she encourages other nurses to consider joining the community care sector. She believes that with the addition of more nurses, they can collectively strive to provide better experiences and outcomes for patients.
For those yearning for change and aspiring to make a meaningful difference, Faith urges them to explore a potential career or mid-career switch into nursing. Much like Faith, who found her passion for nursing later in life, it is never too late to embark on a journey in the healthcare industry and discover the profound fulfilment it offers.
Explore your career in healthcare at www.caretogobeyond.sg.
This article was written in collaboration with the MOH Holdings team for the Care To Go Beyond campaign.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post