Captions: Community nurse Chua Yu Ru was inspired to join healthcare after witnessing people living in poverty during a mission trip. PHOTO: JASPER YU
By Elizabeth Liew
When Ms Chua Yu Ru was deployed to administer swab tests at migrant worker dormitories at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, she moved out of her family home to avoid exposing her parents to the virus. Despite the inconvenience, she was grateful to be able to serve the wider community on the ground.
“The experience convinced me even more that healthcare and nursing should not be confined to within hospital or institution walls,” says the 30-year-old senior staff nurse, who is part of the community nursing team at Changi General Hospital (CGH).
While general ward nurses largely focus on caring for the acutely sick in the hospital, community nurses conduct health counselling, screenings and more to help the community at large, from the active to the frail.
“Rather than having them go to the hospital for appointments, we bring care out into the community and patients’ homes,” she explains.
Ms Chua’s nursing journey began with what she describes as “a walk-by-faith” moment, inspired by an overseas mission trip to Nepal after her A levels, which exposed her to the needs of people living in poverty for the first time.
“I wanted to join a profession that would provide practical help to the impoverished. While I did not know what the full spectrum of nursing entailed, it was enough to know that the nursing skills I would eventually acquire would enable me to impact the lives of others – not just in Singapore, but also overseas,” she says.
It led her to apply for a SingHealth scholarship, as she felt that the healthcare group’s mission statement aligned with her values. She received the SingHealth Nursing Degree Scholarship in 2010 to pursue her studies at the National University of Singapore, and the monthly allowance helped her embark on humanitarian and medical work in countries such
as Cambodia and India.
“With every trip, my conviction deepened further. I realised just how much my healthcare knowledge and skills could impact people’s lives, especially in places where healthcare is not affordable or easily accessible.”
Applying healthcare skills in her own home
During her first posting as a general surgery ward nurse at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), Ms Chua saw patients who were warded repeatedly for acute medical care due to poor knowledge of how to monitor and manage their own health.
“I realised the importance of health education and empowering people to take charge of their health, to minimise the need for hospitalisation. I wanted to be out in the community, enabling patients to close the gaps in their knowledge and skill sets.”
Ms Chua’s experience as a general nurse also gave her the confidence to care for her father, who had cancer, at home after he underwent surgery in 2016. While in hospital, he was coincidentally transferred to the ward she was working in, which allowed her to visit him daily.
A medical mission trip to Papua New Guinea that same year opened her eyes to the “beauty of community health”, cementing her decision to specialise in community health nursing. She travelled to remote islands and villages to set up primary health clinics, perform medical checks and assist with mass vaccinations. The active health outreach and education performed by the local health workers inspired her.
“It opened my eyes to how more emphasis should be placed on providing healthcare in a more proactive manner to promote health and wellness, rather than just treating diseases and preventing mortality,” she explains.
Serving the community
Ms Chua obtained an advanced diploma in chronic disease management from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2017 and transferred to the SGH community nursing team in 2018, before joining CGH in 2021.
Her current role involves assessing and screening residents for potential geriatric issues, educating and coaching them on how to manage their chronic diseases, and connecting patients with relevant community partners or social services, if needed. She is working towards becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse in Community Health, which will allow her to play a bigger role in patient diagnosis and treatment. She also hopes to obtain a licence to prescribe medication to patients with chronic diseases.
Ms Chua says: “It brings me much joy and fulfilment when individuals and their families feel supported by our community nursing services.”
Visit www.healthcarescholarships.sg for more information.