The Alice Lee Palliative Nursing Care Programme at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) was set up in 2011 with a generous $1 million gift from the Lee Foundation to equip nurses with the necessary skills for palliative care.

Nurses have the opportunity to pursue a three-year Masters of Nursing programme at the National University of Singapore, which includes a one-year internship.

To date, two nurses have graduated and are now Advance Practice Nurses (APNs), while two others are pursuing the Masters. This year, Lee Foundation pledged a further $1 million to enable more nurses to enhance their skills. We speak to two nurses who have benefited from the Foundation’s generosity.

How has this Programme enhanced your skills?

Stella: I’m very thankful for the opportunity to advance my clinical knowledge and critical thinking skills, and reinforce my understanding of research methodology and principles behind medical intervention. Now, I can better help patients who have general chronic and acute conditions, and provide more holistic care for patients with life-limiting illnesses.

Zhi Zhen: This programme has supported my pursuit to become an APN. The internship complemented the classroom learning and the experience enabled me to take on more patient care responsibilities, many of which were formerly assumed by physicians. I’m gratified that I can do more to ensure that our patients get the best care possible.

How do you think patients have benefited from this programme?

Stella: With the latest research findings, I am able to help my patients manage both the chronic and palliative aspects of cancer to achieve a better quality of life. This means that patients need not go for so many sub-specialised consultations, and may be able to reduce the many types of medication they need to take. This saves cost, time and hassle for the patient.

Zhi Zhen: This programme has helped me become more confident in the work that I do – be it caring for my patients or teaching junior staff, both nurses and physicians.

Were there any difficulties you faced?

Stella: My greatest challenge was juggling my time between my studies and the demands of my family. Thankfully, I was able to complete the programme with the support of my family and colleagues. It wasn’t easy , but they helped to hold the fort both at home and at work. I was tremendously grateful for this support.

Zhi Zhen: I had quite a heavy clinical, teaching and administrative workload. I had to find a balance and make sure that I had time for my studies too.

What is one learning point that stood out for you so far?

Stella: Learning is a lifelong process! I’ve been a nurse close to 20 years and there is still so much more I have yet to learn and discover. Most importantly, of course, we must always ensure that we care for our patients safely!

Zhi Zhen: In order to help others, you must have a heart that is ready to serve. Then, you have to equip yourself with the right skills and knowledge.

How do you hope to contribute in your area of work after finishing your programme?

Stella: I want to share my knowledge and experience on palliative care with other nurses and practitioners, the community and, hopefully, contribute to the Masters of Nursing programme curriculum. Through this, I want to strengthen the foundation of palliative care nursing in Singapore.

Zhi Zhen: I, too, hope to share what I’ve learned with other nurses, especially those who work in the general wards and who provide community care. This will increase the level of awareness of how palliative care can help patients and their families. I also want to participate in more research and quality innovation projects to improve the efficiency and quality of our work.

This story was first published in the 2016 edition of The Giving Times, an annual roundup of development news in SingHealth.