Many practical Singaporeans think about prospects or pay when deciding on a career. Not National Healthcare Group (NHG) polyclinic staff nurse Keely Lim, who talks about “receiving her calling” when describing how she decided to be a nurse.
Initially unclear about what career to pursue, Ms Lim had taken a gap year after her A levels to figure it out. During that time, she prayed and found direction from her faith, and also achieved a better understanding of who she was and what she wanted to do with her life.
“That year exposed me to experiences and people who helped me gain a stronger sense of self-awareness, and come to terms with my personality and strengths,” says the self-confessed “extroverted introvert”, who feels a special compassion not just for the sick but also the elderly.
She was introduced to an experienced nurse who “inspired and motivated” her. “She shared with me about the close bonds that she forged with her patients, how she earned their trust and gradually built close relationships with them,” Ms Lim recounts. “I thought to myself that there must be something really special about this career.”
Her decision was sealed and the rest should have been easy — except that she had not foreseen her parents’ reaction. They had been spending a lot of time in hospital because her maternal grandfather had been frequently ill and had formed an opinion that “nursing was a tiring and dirty job”.
“They asked me if I was aware of what I was getting myself into,” says the now 24-year-old. “They were afraid that I would regret my decision.”
She managed to allay their fears with her determination. “Once I set my mind and heart to pursue a certain direction, I stick to it and will not waver.” She went on to enrol in the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the National University of Singapore, subsequently applying for and winning a Healthcare Merit Scholarship.
“My parents gradually accepted my decision as they noticed my joy in what I was studying through the many clinical stories that I shared with them,” says Ms Lim.
There were certainly many benefits that came with the scholarship, notably a week-long nursing immersion programme at Tokyo Ariake University of Medical and Health Sciences in 2016 and a two-week-long summer school programme at the University College of London in 2017.
Ms Lim graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) (Honours) and now works at Yishun Polyclinic under the NHG Polyclinics (NHGP) where she enjoys the outpatient setting — in direct contrast to her student days when most of her time was spent in an acute (inpatient) environment.
At the heart of it all, Ms Lim knows that her love for people is what will stand her in good stead as she contemplates a long career in nursing.
“Often, nurses are the ones conducting patient education but I believe we learn a lot from our patients as well,” she says. “I’ve learned to be humble and to never judge a person on the surface because everyone has their own unique story to tell.”