Tracy is a graduate of Nanyang Polytechnic and spent four years as a registered nurse in the National University Hospital in Singapore, where she gained her experience in surgical wards as well as the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Life as a nurse in the ICU is quite different from the general wards - there are fewer patients, and the patients are less communicative. Nonetheless, the care for each ICU patient is more intense. The care needed is not only complex due to the specific illnesses and very high dependency, it is also complete - the ICU nurse has to care for a patient from head to toe, and there is relatively a great deal more discussion with doctors and other nurses over the patient's care needs. This armed Tracy with a good nursing experience and a solid all-round training as a nurse.
Tracy has dealt with numerous stroke and cancer patients. In Tracy's professional experience, nursing stroke patients can be physically challenging due to the weight of the patients and equipment. Nursing cancer patients are challenging too, though not physically, because the nurse has to provide a lot of support to not just the patients but their family as well. The patient's family can feel lost and fearful over the situation and not know how to help, especially when it comes to end-stage cancer. Nurses often find themselves giving informal counselling as well as explaining the processes. Though these are often told in advance by hospice or palliative care staff, grieving and stressed family members seldom remember what they have read. With constant re-assurance and explanations by the nurses, the patients and family are often very appreciative.
"We spend so much time with the patients, sometimes more than their immediate families, and often need to chit-chat to build rapport with them, or distract them from their pain," Tracy explained. "This is where conversation can get interesting!" When asked if she has a memorable encounter, she shared about a time not too long ago when she helped a patient's son come to a timely emotional reconciliation with his mother.
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He was working overseas and so was his sister. Unlike his sister, he didn't have a good relationship with his mom. His father has dementia, and the domestic helper cared for both parents. The mother was diagnosed with cancer and when the condition worsened, they had to hire a day-and-night nurse. As her health deteriorated, the family received several false alarms - but not from the nurses. During one of the false alarms, the son flew back home and poured his heart out to Tracy, but never reconciled with the mother due to many unhappy disagreements. She was later discharged from hospital. But, when the mother's condition worsened one last time, Tracy's instinct kicked in. "Nurses can tell," Tracy explained. With Tracy's help, the son flew back home once again, in time that fateful evening to reconcile with his mother, before she finally departed that very night.
These days, Tracy provides private nursing services although she sometimes takes on hospital work. She has chosen this freelancing route as she wants flexibility in her time. As a freelancer, she also has the ability to accompany her patients in their final journeys through to the end of their lives. Private nursing is often recommended by doctors if there is no real reason for a patient to stay in hospital.
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