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She wants to bridge the gap between policy and practice in healthcare
A senior staff nurse at Woodlands Health, Ms Mavis Tan is as passionate about caring for her patients as she is about research and healthcare policies. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

Through research and insights gleaned from her work as a caregiver, this MOHH scholar hopes to improve policies to better serve patients

The calming presence of nurses during stressful times was deeply felt by Ms Mavis Tan when her grandmother was hospitalised in 2015 for a hip fracture.

They always spoke softly and patiently to the elderly woman, treating her like family.

“Observing the nurses during those daily trips to the hospital reaffirmed the nature of work I thought best suited me, following a personal philosophy of ‘doing small things, with great love’,” says the 27-year-old.

Inspired by this, Ms Tan decided to become a nurse. She applied and received the Healthcare Merit Award from MOH Holdings (MOHH) in 2015.

Just like the nurses who cared for her grandmother, she aspires to be “a trusted presence for patients who are often at their most vulnerable and possibly lowest point in their lives,” she says.

The MOHH scholarship paid for her studies at the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the National University of Singapore. Through leadership workshops and dialogues with healthcare professionals offered to scholars, she also picked up leadership skills and broadened her vision of how nursing in Singapore could move forward as a profession.

Her nursing undergraduate programme also included a three-week summer exchange in the United Kingdom.

There, she took a module on mental health and the class went to visit a mental health institution. She found it interesting how the UK managed mental health, where the focus is on rehabilitating and integrating patients back into society.

This gave her new perspectives on how she can better support her patients in their state of mental health.

Currently a senior staff nurse at Woodlands Health, she performs and coordinates general and specialised nursing care in an acute general ward which also includes patients of high acuity as well as those with complex needs. She applies what she had learnt in the UK and lets her patients perform activities of daily living on their own to retain a sense of self.

Gaining exposure to the field

During her scholarship, she had many opportunities to attend workshops, events and dialogues where she could network with scholars from fields such as allied health and pharmacy as well as engage with working professionals in healthcare.

“One of the highlights of this scholarship journey is having the privilege to meet like-minded individuals who are equally invested in personal growth, passionate about what they do and have a vision of the future of our healthcare system,” she says.

She is also passionate about research. In 2020, she led a phenomenological study on the lived experience of novice nurses caring for patients with Covid-19 in a major hospital that specialises in complex coronavirus cases. She based the study on her own first-hand experiences as a nurse during that time.

“I follow a personal philosophy of ‘doing small things, with great love’… My big goal is to be an agent of change and impact the healthcare sector at a policy level through research.”

– Ms Mavis Tan, recipient of the MOHH Healthcare Merit Award

Concluded in 2022, the study found some psychological and sociological needs that were specific to new nurses. Things that helped them cope included receiving support from leadership and having camaraderie with more experienced colleagues as well as support from loved ones.

Rising to the challenge

Ms Tan’s first-year as a nurse was not easy. New to the job when the pandemic hit in 2019, she struggled with the strains of front-line work, recalling bouts of anxiety and difficult interactions with frustrated patients. Supportive mentors reassured her that the first year is the hardest but necessary for growth.

Having come across various types of patients and relatives, she feels more confident in handling them. Whenever she encounters difficult patients now, she tries to empathise with them and not take it personally.

Now in her fourth year as a nurse, she makes sure to take care of her own mental health through journalling and exercising regularly so that she can better care for others.

There have also been rewarding moments that keep her going, reminding her why she entered the nursing profession.

“It’s fulfilling when patients affirm you for the oftentimes thankless work that we do, like when a patient told me how grateful she was that I was her nurse and she hopes I will continue being a nurse for others,” she says.

Her plans for the future include being both a clinician and researcher so that she can actively drive research on issues facing those who work on the ground, which would, in turn, help shape policy and effect changes from the top.

“My big goal is to be an agent of change and impact the healthcare sector at a policy level through research so that nurses and patients ultimately benefit,” says Ms Tan.

About the MOHH Healthcare Merit Award
The MOHH Healthcare Merit Award is awarded to promising students with strong academic track records and a passion to pursue careers in public healthcare. It includes tuition fees and allowances as well as sponsorship for approved developmental programmes.

This article is brought to you by Woodlands Health.

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