When MOH Holdings (MOHH) scholar Nanthiniy, 30, was five years old, her sister was born with special needs and required intensive care, so frequent hospital visits were the norm.
“My sister was on the ventilator for three months in the neonatal intensive care unit,” she recalls. “I remember watching the nurses teach my mother how to insert the feeding tube and comforting my sister when she cried.”
Even though those nurses played a huge role in her childhood, she never imagined herself becoming one of them. However, that soon changed after she took a two-year gap upon graduating from junior college to explore her options.
Working as a camp facilitator and first aider directed her towards her true calling, where she enjoyed helping students.
“One of them said I was very comforting,” says Ms Nanthiniy, now a senior staff nurse with the anaesthesia unit at the major operating theatre at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). “That was when I realised I had an interest in caring for people and knew I wanted to join the medical profession.”
However, by the time she decided nursing was the best fit, she had missed the Joint Admissions Exercise deadline for the nursing programme at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) in 2014.
“It seemed like a setback, but I decided to write in to NYP and explain why they should take me in,” she says. NYP eventually accepted her application.
In the first two years at NYP, she juggled both studies and work – until an invitation to a Healthcare Scholarships event led her to apply for the Healthcare Merit Award offered by MOHH, the holding company of Singapore’s public healthcare institutions.
The scholarship allowed her to focus on her studies. She even did well enough to land an internship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and complete a module at the Ivy League university.
“I got the chance to visit many wards which you don’t get to do in Singapore,” says Ms Nanthiniy. “I was attached to the heart transplant unit where I interacted with patients and learnt about how they viewed life and their second chance at it. The experience built my confidence in caring for patients.”
OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY
The scholarship also gave her opportunities to embark on medical mission trips to Cambodia. On her first trip in 2017, she conducted medical assessments and learnt how their hospitals were run.
The following year, she stepped up to be a group leader. Together with a team of healthcare professionals, including a pharmacist and occupational therapist, Ms Nanthiniy developed a project to enhance nurses’ skills on the ground.
“We taught them how to assess the medical conditions of people in rural areas before sending them to bigger hospitals for treatment,” she says.
The scholarship also supported her studies via a two-year degree programme jointly offered by Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and University of Glasgow. As part of the course, she spent four weeks overseas observing in clinics and major hospitals.
Locally, while still at SIT, she worked on innovative projects such as a prototype for Bright Vision Hospital to contain secretions from the tracheostomy in the neck in order to control infections. It won the Singapore Healthcare Management 2019 Poster Competition Merit Award, under the risk management category.
GOING BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY
While having joined KTPH only in 2019, Ms Nanthiniy volunteered to be trained to care for ICU patients when the pandemic hit the following year. This proved to be a confidence boosting experience for her work back in the operating theatre, where she specialises in airway and perioperative pain management (during and just after surgery).
To help student nurses along in their journeys, she also took the initiative to develop a structured programme for them through a one-week attachment to the anaesthesia unit.
At work, Ms Nanthiniy continues to challenge herself and aspires to be an advanced practice nurse – they can prescribe certain types of medication, for instance, among other duties – because her dream is to be an all-rounded practitioner who can not only “do well clinically”, but also “be able to teach juniors to be passionate about helping people”.
Visit healthcarescholarships.sg for more information.