​By Bianca Teo

Dedicated nurse by day, avid cook and baker at nights and weekends. 

That’s how Gan Pei Ying, Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) from CGH sees herself.

Pei Ying, who holds a Master’s degree in Advanced Practice Nursing (APN): Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, was responsible for the development of CGH’s community nurse post programme at senior activity centres. She also designs geriatric assessment tools and works with community partners to help the elderly age in place.

Admitting that developing the community nurse post programme has given her many sleepless nights given that it’s a new area, Pei Ying credits being in the kitchen and baking as a way for her to relieve stress.

Why did you choose to become a nurse and why specialise in geriatric nursing?
I wanted a job where I could help others. I also wanted something that will challenge me and give me opportunities for learning.

The elderly are a vulnerable population and caring for them is not just about focusing on specific diseases that they may have. It goes beyond disease management and involves working with various partners to find ways to provide long term support for both the elderly and their families in the community.

The focus is on optimising health, helping them regain independence and improving their quality of life - concepts and beliefs that resonate very well with me personally.

Which part of your job do you love the most?
The best part about my job is the rapport and mutual trust that I have built with the elderly residents over time.  Sometimes, they will drop by the nurse post just to have a chat with me.

I bonded with the elderly residents by taking time to understand their health and life goals so we can help them in ways that matter to them. They usually open up to me when they see that I am on the same page as them and that I am there to help them.

When I review meal plans with the residents, occasionally we will talk about recipes and I will take the opportunity to encourage them to cook more healthily. For example, I will suggest to them to replace pork ribs with lean meat or chicken when they prepare soups.

I’m very happy whenever I see them regain ownership and take greater interest in managing their own health.

You enjoy baking and cooking in your spare time. How did you pick up those skills?
When I was younger, both my parents had to work. My mother taught me how to cook and I learnt to prepare simple dinners for my family.

Baking was something I picked up much later from my friends and the internet. I have a friend who is a wonderful baker and in the past, she will always ask me to join her in her baking sessions and help her out. I supposed those sessions rubbed off on me!

Baking requires great precision and it is a very methodological process, which I find somewhat calming. Baking is actually one of the things that I do to relieve stress on the occasional bad days, with s’mores and chocolate mint cookies as two of my better creations!

Any baking tips for us?
Have patience and follow the recipe! I used to be impatient and never follow the recipe to a tee. I didn't wait for my ingredients to reach room-temperature and I rushed through individual steps or tried to simplify the recipes, thinking that I could get away with it. Needless to say, the end product did not turn out well.

Now I just follow what the recipe calls for and for more complicated cakes or pastries, I would set aside more time as I know that there is a reason for every step in the recipe. Now, my bakes turn out quite alright most of the time!

You did your Masters in New York City. Any must-dos for those who are planning to head to the Big Apple?
I enjoyed watching musicals on Broadway and I've watched pretty much most of them during my two and a half years there, thanks to my student discounts and the occasional great deals with same day show tickets.

New York City is a melting pot of different cuisines from all over the world. I used to visit the cafes and restaurants featured on the food and travel channels, especially during the Restaurant Week which is the best time to visit some of New York's best restaurants on a wallet-friendly budget. Participating restaurants offer three-course lunch and dinner menus at fixed prices. During my time there, it was $20+ for lunch and $30+ for dinner.

One of the best meals I had was at Nobu which is co-owned by Nobu Matsuhisa, a Japanese celebrity chef and restaurateur and famous actor, Robert De Niro, among others. The food and ambience were simply fantastic.

Tell us more about the charity bake sales you were involved in when you were studying in New York.
When I was living in New York, my landlord was an avid volunteer. She approached me one day to bake some S’mores cookies for a fund raising event on Broadway. I was very happy when my cookies were sold out. I love that I was able to give back to the community through baking and following that, I baked occasionally to help raise funds for charity at my school.

*The CGH community nurse post programme was rolled out in late 2017, where a community nurse will visit a senior activity centre to reach out to the older residents in the heartlands, providing them with health services (e.g. blood pressure checks, blood glucose testing, etc) and geriatric assessments as well as refer them to community resources when the need arises.