What do a dancer, calligrapher and multi-linguist have in common? Here is a clue: Florence Nightingale would be proud of them.  

If you guessed ‘nurse’, you are absolutely right! Undeniably, nurses have come a long way since Nightingale founded modern nursing in the 19th century. Today, nurses are not only vital partners of our patients in their care journey, but also key players in multi-disciplinary care teams. Often our nurses are seen displaying gentle care and offering reassuring smiles in the ward and at the clinic, little do we know that amongst them, there are unspoken and hidden talents that we are not aware of! 

We uncovered three talented NHCS nurses in our midst. 
Nurse Clinician (NC) Yang Yang, Ward 44

 Nurse Clinician Yang Yang Ward 44

When did you start dancing and what do you enjoy most about it?

My mother sparked my interest in dance when I was about five to six years old. I remember being so excited about the costumes and pretty make-up! As I grew up, that excitement progressed into enjoyment. The learning experience of repeating the same steps for thousands times to perfect the moves, and the encouragement from my family and friends are what I enjoy most now. Every small improvement at each practice gives me the courage to press on. I always believe that we can stretch our abilities beyond what we believe is our ‘limit’.

Can you share your most memorable dance experience?

The most memorable experience would have to be the Cats - the first dance musical I have ever choreographed for NHCS Dinner & Dance 2016. Subsequently, we were invited to perform at several other events. 

Cats was our recreation of the famous 1980’s Cats musical, brought to life by a team of non-professional dancers! Our 10-member team took about three months to practice amidst our busy working schedules. One of the highlights of the dance was its stunning makeup and costume, which was creatively designed by Senior Staff Nurse (SSN) Pedrola Rolyn Almeria from Ward 56. Through the dance, I discovered many hidden talents amongst our healthcare colleagues such as Rolyn, and found so much joy in witnessing the efforts and never-give-up attitude of team members as they struggled with the steps. All these made this dance most memorable.

 NHCS Dinner & Dance 2016nurse yang yang dance 

(L-R) The cast of ‘Cats’ with senior management at the NHCS Dinner & Dance 2016; A closer look at the amazing costume made by NC Yang Yang’s talented colleague.

As the saying goes, ‘Dance is the hidden language of the soul’ – what does dancing mean to you?

Dancing is a form of body art to me, a kind of “language” written by your body. It’s personal and unique to individuals, and allows people to express their deepest thought through movement. Dancing for me is not about competing with others or being glamorous on stage, it’s about gaining control of your own body, to stretch your abilities and achieve a better self. In dance, often times you need to work with a team to maintain the formation, connect with others, create space for others – this teamwork is similar to nursing. A good team always works faster, better and happier. Dancing taught me how to work better with others as a team.  

SSN Hemaraj R Manimaran, Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU)

 Nurse Hemaraj R Manimaran CTICU

How many languages can you speak and where did you learn them from?

Besides Tamil which is my mother tongue, I was lucky to be exposed to Malay, English and Mandarin since young. Why mandarin you might think? My family believes that it is always beneficial to learn more hence I was sent to a kindergarten to pick up the language when I was about five years old.

Which language was the hardest and easiest to master, and are you currently learning any new ones?

Tamil is the easiest for me since it is my mother tongue and since young, Tamil is the language I used at home. Well, but not so for the rest of the languages! Initially at the kindergarten, I was unfamiliar with English and had difficulties with pronouncing Mandarin. As time went by with the daily communication in school, I developed a liking for Mandarin and thereafter, learning became much easier. Presently, I am picking up simple dialects to help me communicate with senior patients better.

Nurse Hemaraj R Manimaran CTICU
SSN Hemaraj often receives compliments from patients for his exemplary service (perhaps his linguistic skills played a part?). Here is a snapshot of him when he was featured in a staff video as one of our Service Quality Award recipients in 2020.

How has your multi-lingual capability helped you in nursing and daily life? 

I feel that to be able to understand and speak in four languages has definitely helped me better manage, and communicate with patients and their families. The language skills have also improved my relationship with fellow colleagues as well as family members.

NC Zeng Wenying, Nursing Development Unit

 Nurse  Zeng Wenying, Nursing Development Unit

When did you start calligraphy and how did you master the craft?

Practicing Chinese calligraphy has been my hobby since childhood. I was influenced by my late father who enjoyed writing. I was also exposed to calligraphy in primary school where I learnt basic strokes. I would think that I’m still a beginner for my Chinese calligraphy writing and it will be a lifelong learning process! 

A fun fact I would like to share is that the word “calligraphy” is originally a Greek word meaning “beautiful writing” which is often associated with good penmanship - handwriting that is neat, legible and attractive. Chinese calligraphy, on the other hand, involves the writing of characters developed over centuries. It expresses the abstract beauty of lines and rhythms through the organisational structure of lines and dots, while also reflecting a person’s emotions, moral integrity, and character in self-cultivation, intellectual tastes and approach to life. 

What is the hardest and most enjoyable part about calligraphy?

Just like learning to play a musical instrument or sport, there is a technique to master in Chinese calligraphy. To me, the most challenging part is to master good control over the brush and wrist, and follow my heart mindfully and effectively, making different kinds of lines, stokes, etc. to complete a writing piece. There are many factors to consider such as the quantity of ink/ water that I allow the brush to take up; the pressure, inclination, and direction I give to the brush and many others that ultimately influence the final shape. It takes years of dedicated training, and even more years to master the craft – my practice has been rather intermittent and I definitely have more to ‘brush up’ on!

How has calligraphy helped you in your personal and/or professional life?

Through calligraphy practice, I learnt to recognise beauty in not only the big things but the tiniest details. As a perfectionist, I would only progress to the next stage if I achieved my optimum at the current, and this outlook has led me to realise that besides quality of materials, the calligrapher’s skill and state of mind during the writing process are key ingredients affecting the final result. To better my skills, I joined a group of Chinese ink painting and calligraphy artists. We complete an artwork at each gathering, and members would take turns sharing feedback to help one another improve.

  Zeng Wenying CalligraphyNHCS  Zeng Wenying Calligraphy
(L-R) NC Wenying not only enjoys calligraphy but uses it as a way to hone her mindfulness; Posing with her latest work which was presented to Wee Foundation at SingHealth’s Nurses’ Day 2022.

Apart from the above reasons, I enjoy calligraphy because it is a good way to relax and practice mindfulness during my me-time. I am truly grateful for being able to contribute in various meaningful occasions in spite of my shallow skills! It is a joy and blessing to be able to help. 

Psst, watch out for our talented nurses in action on NHCS Facebook!