The loss of a loved one and a deep personal conviction propelled Nurse Clinician Aslena Hussain to dedicate her career to the care of diabetes patients.

Barely making enough to support her three children, a single mother in her 30s had sacrificed her diabetes treatment and developed a severe leg wound. Amputation was the only viable medical option, but how would the young mother continue to take on odd jobs to support her children with just one leg?

Encounters with patients going through such dilemmas and distress are not uncommon for Nurse Clinician Aslena Hussain, who specialises in diabetes care.

“As a mother of three, I empathised with the patient. I talked to her about how important her health was for her children’s welfare, and counselled her through her decision to amputate her leg. I also referred her to medical social workers and welfare organisations for financial support and grants,” she said. 

Leading a team of 13 nurses, Aslena counsels diabetes patients through their health and emotional struggles, and engages their families in discussions. She also trains and empowers other ward nurses on enhancing patient safety and welfare. With difficult cases, she is roped in to help out.

Though such work may take an emotional toll on some, Aslena finds great fulfilment in her role. In fact, she was driven by a childhood loss to choose this career. When she was in primary school, her grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes. As awareness and understanding of the chronic disease was low at the time, her grandmother suffered from complications, including losing sensation in her extremities. “She even accidentally poured hot water on herself because she couldn’t feel her fingers,” Aslena recalled.

More complications followed and a badly infected foot had to be amputated. Aslena’s grandmother died in her 60s from diabetes complications. The loss had a lasting impact on the young Aslena. “We knew very little about diabetes then. No one in the family knew how to care for someone with this chronic condition. I didn’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said.

This conviction led her to enrol in a nursing course and join SGH. Determined to expand her knowledge of diabetes, she left SGH after five years to join the Diabetic Society of Singapore, where she oversaw the running of three diabetic centres, managing eye and foot screening. She subsequently joined a pharmaceutical company, which gave her vital experience in clinical research and training.

Aslena wanted to use her extensive experience and skills for the benefit of patients. Empowered with fresh ideas and renewed passion, she returned to SGH in 2014. “I wanted to give back to society, and felt that I would have the most impact on patients’ lives as a nurse,” she said.

Today, she not only makes it her mission to ease the burdens of patients at SGH, she also volunteers at the Association of Diabetes Educators Singapore. As editor of the newsletter, she also offers health screening and talks through the Muslim Healthcare Professionals Association.

Adapted from Singapore Health, Mar-Apr 2018 issue. 

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