After some 30 years, Nurse Clinician Wu Sin Yan continues to be wowed by medical techological advances and inspired by patients’ resilience.
Seeing how quickly a
dialysis machine can
help a breathless and
gasping renal patient to
breathe normally fascinated Nurse
Clinician Wu Sin Yan so much that
she spent much of her professional
life working in dialysis.
Originally from Hong Kong,
where she attained a Bachelor
of Applied Science degree in
Nursing in 1992, Mdm Wu moved
to Singapore a year later and
worked her way as a dialysis nurse
at a private hospital to her current
position heading Singapore
General Hospital’s (SGH) Peritoneal
Dialysis (PD) programme.
“I remember one case where
the patient came in gasping.
After the third hour of dialysis,
he was much better. Seeing the
patient get better gave me a
great sense of satisfaction.
With dialysis, you can really see
results,” said Mdm Wu.
Dialysis removes waste
products from the blood when
the kidneys can no longer do
the job. It can be done via two
main methods — haemodialysis,
where blood is pumped in and
out of the body; or PD, where
the inner lining of a patient’s
abdomen (peritoneum) acts as a
During PD, a cleansing fluid
flows through a surgically inserted
catheter into the patient’s
abdomen. After a few hours,
the fluid with the filtered waste
products is drained and discarded.
Unless the patient undergoes
a kidney transplant, PD and
haemodialysis are lifelong
treatments. For Mdm Wu, it
is especially motivating when
patients maintain a good quality
of life despite their condition.
“We had a patient who started
dialysis when his kids were very
small. He continued working and
even got promoted. His condition
did not stop him from going about
his daily activities and supporting
his family. He managed to get
a kidney transplant after eight
years,” she said, adding that the
satisfaction of seeing patients
recover gives her the drive to work.
A people person
SGH’s PD programme is the
largest of its kind in Singapore,
with Mdm Wu leading 15 nurses to
care for more than 500 patients.
As a seasoned nursing leader,
Mdm Wu considers flexibility and
a sense of humour important
traits of a nurse — besides
knowledge, skills and patience.
“We need to be flexible when
guiding patients because everyone
is different. Being humorous helps
ease the tension of patients and
their caregivers who may be
At 57, Mdm Wu may be twice
the age of some of her colleagues,
but she has no trouble working
with them. In fact, they have
become “good friends” who can
discuss problems together. “The
young nurses come to me when
they have difficulties. We are open
with each other and talk about
many things. It is like chatting
with my daughter!” she said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic
has put a halt to their outings,
including dining out, Mdm Wu
often orders food to be delivered
to their office for her team.
Beyond her nursing duties,
Mdm Wu plays an active part in
exploring potential development
in the renal nursing field.
Collaborating with the nursing
research team and psychologists,
she conducted a mindfulness
programme on reducing the stress
and anxiety levels of PD patients
Her efforts did not go
unnoticed, as she was named
one of 2020 Nurses’ Merit Award
winners in recognition of her
dedication. “It is an honour.
I wasn’t expecting to get the
award. I am thankful for the
renal and nursing departments, as
well as my supervisor, who have
supported me through the years.”
The mother of two is so
committed to her profession that
she encouraged her daughter to
join nursing, too. Recently, the
young woman in her early twenties
left the clean energy industry to
embark on a nursing course.
During her free time, Mdm Wu
enjoys long walks with her
husband at MacRitchie Reservoir.
Her newfound hobby — thanks to
more frequent meals at home — is
whipping up dishes for her family.
“I like watching cooking
shows and learning from them.
Cooking is good practice for
concentration. If you don’t focus,
you may end up injuring yourself,”
she said. “My son is quite a picky
eater, but he likes it when I cook