​Nursing, to Ms Dezarae Ang, doesn’t really feel like a job because she deals with people and every day is different.

This story was first published in Singapore Health, May-Jun 2016 issue.
She didn’t want a run-of-the-mill job writing reports and the like, but one where she could interact with people, and which offered her challenges and meaning in life. She had been going on medical related missions to countries like Cambodia since her early teens, so when it was time to decide after junior college, it was nursing hands down.
“I have always wanted to do something related to health care. Nursing to me doesn’t really feel like a job because you deal with people and every day is different.  I don’t think I could work in a nine-to-five office job. I would feel quite bored,” said Ms Dezarae Ang, Staff Nurse, Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Ms Ang received her nursing degree in Melbourne, and since graduation, has been working at SGH’s Ward 48 for cancer patients. Again, it was her search for challenges that led her to become an oncology nurse.
“I didn’t have a specific reason for choosing oncology. I think I just wanted a more challenging environment, one where I could really talk to the patients. A lot of them are quite sick, so it’s important to know how to respond to critical situations. I thought it would be meaningful in a sense,” she said.
"Her passing left a deep impression on me because I saw the fragility of life. It reminded me to treasure the important things in my life, and people who matter."
- Ms Dezarae Ang, Staff Nurse, SGH

While many of the ward’s patients do well after treatment, some don’t.  Their conditions can deteriorate very rapidly. “That came as a bit of a shock to me because at that time, I was still new to nursing.  I think the hardest part is when sometimes, the patients treat you like family,” Ms Ang said.
The death of one patient hit her a little harder than others. “I had the privilege of caring for her from the start of her admission until her eventual demise. When she first came in, she was very mobile and we spoke a fair bit about her life and her family,” said Ms Ang.
“Her passing left a deep impression on me because I saw the fragility of life.  It reminded me to treasure the important things in my life, and people who matter,” said Ms Ang, who was only able to get over the patient’s death after attending her wake. Generally, though, Ms Ang copes well with death. “I realise there are things I cannot change and I have to accept them,” she said.
Being a friend to her patients is important for her. “If you don’t establish a connection, the relationship you have with the patient is a very professional one – I give you medicine, and you take it.  Talking to them about their families makes a difference to me, and I think to the patients as well.  They feel more comfortable and (perhaps that helps them respond better to treatment),” she said.
As a relative newbie, the 24-year-old’s priority is to settle into her job before furthering her career.  She wants to take an advanced diploma in oncology as it would let her work more independently, doing things like giving chemotherapy and taking blood cultures, which are only done by doctors and resident nurses. It would also give her a chance at a management role, but she hopes to be a resident nurse to contribute to other areas of clinical care.