Three young nurses are inspired by their parents to join the profession.
This story was reproduced from the Singapore Health Special Edition on Nursing 2016
By Esther Au Yong
In mum’s footsteps
It should have been an easy decision to make. Both her mother and younger sister were already in nursing, a profession that she had always been drawn to.
Yet, it was only when she was halfway through her economics and management degree studies at SIM University that Ms Kwan Xiu Ling decided to make the switch and pursue a nursing diploma at Nanyang Polytechnic.
Now a Senior Staff Nurse at Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) Medical Intensive Care Unit, 30-year-old Ms Kwan said: “I saw how my sister, who was then in her third year in poly, had gone through clinical attachments and derived great satisfaction from caring for and helping others.”
Her sister, Ms Kwan Xiu Xian, Staff Nurse, Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Farrer Park Hospital, became a nurse shortly after the SAR S pandemic in 2003.
“I’ve always admired my mother for being knowledgeable; people are always asking her for health and medical advice,” the younger Ms Kwan, 28, said. “I saw the impact the SAR S outbreak had on the health care profession, especially on the nurses who stepped up despite the risks and dif ficulties they faced.”
Their mother, Senior Staff Nurse Woo Yuen Kau, 63, from SingHealth Polyclinic (Bedok), was thrilled to have both her daughters follow in her footsteps.
“Both of them love to hear stories about my student days in nursing school and how nursing has changed over the last 40 years. What I love most about this job is being able to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I also treasure the great camaraderie among my colleagues. I am very happy that my daughters have found their calling in nursing too,” said Mdm Woo.
"My dad always jokes that he never has to worry about health matters since he has not one, but three personal nurses at home!"
- Ms Kwan Xiu Ling, Senior Staff Nurse, Medical Intensive Care Unit, SGH
The elder Ms Kwan said that having a sister who had “walked the path before” was a great help when she was studying nursing. In part, she had her “drill master” sister to thank for her good grades – she was on the Director’s List in Nanyang Polytechnic and received a scholarship to study nursing at the National University of Singapore.
“Xiu Xian was my ‘trainer’ and ‘mannequin’. To prepare for my clinical assessments, I practised taking blood pressure and did simple health assessments on her. She would point out areas where I could do better and coach me on them,” she said.
Her mother has also been a pillar for her during challenging times. Once, the elder Ms Kwan returned from work looking troubled and palefaced. “When I saw her, I knew that something was wrong,” said Mdm Woo.
“I found out that she had just performed ‘last offices’ procedures on a deceased person for the first time. As a nurse, I understand well that it’s never easy to deal with death but it is something that we must overcome, and learn to cope with. She cried as I hugged and comforted her.”
Now, all three women in the Kwan household are called upon whenever there is a need for medical advice. The elder Ms Kwan said: “My dad always jokes that he never has to worry about health matters since he has not one, but three personal nurses at home!”
Nurse Clinician Annabelle Neo, SGH, is praised by her father, retired nurse manager Michael Neo, as a “better nurse than me”.
Photo: Zaphs Zhang

Like father, like daughter
Ms Annabelle Neo is another daughter who admired one of her parents’ chosen professions. But unlike the Kwan sisters, she wasn’t so sure that the parent in question would welcome her decision to quit her job in the private sector to train to be a nurse.
“She hid her job from me!” retired nurse manager Michael Neo said. In response, his daughter, a Nurse Clinician specialising in Nursing Informatics at SGH, said: “I didn’t want him to worry. I fell sick quite often when I was growing up so I knew he would worry if I joined nursing, as the work can be physically demanding given the long hours and shifts.”
Ms Neo, who is in her mid-30s, made her mid-career switch to nursing in 2007. “He eventually found out from his peers that I was working in the orthopaedics ward!” Ms Neo said. “Instead of being upset, he was very supportive, especially after seeing how well I was managing my patients and how much I was enjoying work.”
"Now, I can understand why my dad made nursing his lifelong career. I love the challenges and excitement that each day brings."
- Ms Annabelle Neo, Nurse Clinician, Nursing Informatics, SGH
In what might be the best compliment from a father to his daughter, Mr Neo said: “I think Annabelle is a better nurse than me. She is very thorough and efficient in her work and is able to anticipate and understand patients’ needs.”
The 71-year-old Mr Neo was a nurse for more than 40 years. Ms Neo, however, credits her dad for helping her do well in her job. “My dad has a wealth of nursing experience and is very familiar with the hospital’s operations, having worked with staff from different departments in SGH. His deep understanding of patient care and people management helped me to not only provide better care for patients, but also manage my working relationships.”
Like her father, she has found great fulfilment in nursing. “Now, I can understand why my dad made nursing his lifelong career. I love the challenges and excitement that each day brings,” said Ms Neo.
Click Here to read more inspiring stories about nurses from the Singapore Health Special Edition on Nursing 2016