27 AUGUST 2015

A way with patients

Jolyn Choo, a nurse at Parkway Cancer Centre, treats every patient with humility and empathy.

There are many ways to spend one’s wedding night but it is likely that few brides would choose to do so by introducing their former nurse to the street foods of Semarang.

That one particular bride decided to spend a few hours of that special evening this way shows how much she was touched by her former nurse, Jolyn Choo, who is a nurse at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC).

The bride had come to PCC to seek treatment for a rare form of leukaemia. While she was there, she became friends with Nurse Choo, who at 29, was about the same age. It was an anxious time and the two became friends.

“We talked about everything,” said Nurse Choo.

The patient got better and was able to return to Indonesia. When she got married last year, she invited Nurse Choo to the wedding.

“When I went to Semarang to visit my patient, she and her husband brought me and some others around Semarang. I was telling her she should spend time with her husband on the wedding night, however she said she needed to go and eat too, so the two of them brought us out.”

It is perhaps not surprising that Ms Choo elicits this type of response from her patients and former patients. She said her secret is to “treat others with humility and empathy”.

She has had a man in his 50s sing Chinese love songs to her during his treatment. “The treatment room was always cheerful with him around.” His wife would make some breakfast of boiled egg and sandwiches for the nurses too.

Unlike some nurses, Ms Choo didn’t grow up wanting to become a nurse. In Secondary 4, the school sent her out to do volunteer work at the Sunlove Home, a home for the intellectually disabled. That experience opened her eyes to the possibilities of nursing as a career.

After graduating from Nanyang Polytechnic, she worked at Singapore General Hospital for nearly five years. She also spent two and a half years in oncology.

After a brief stint as a private nurse, she joined PCC in 2012 and she has been based at Gleneagles Hospital ever since.

At PCC, her job consists of administering treatment, educating patients on side effects and on nutrition, changing dressings and assisting doctors with procedures. She likes the outpatient setting in PCC because there are more opportunities to establish a good nurse-patient relationship.

“In the hospital, it is more task-orientated and you don’t have much time to establish a rapport.”

She adds that she has learnt a lot from her patients – treasuring the people around you, and being thankful for small mercies.

“Be contented in the little things,” she said. “It’s the simple things in life that make you joyful.”

In a setting where patients sometimes cannot eat, just the simple act of eating is a blessing.

When she is not at work, she is learning to play the guitar and she loves running and cycling. She also practises cooking and she is trying to spend more time with her family.

She also likes to spend her time in The Hiding Place (a Christian halfway house for ex-drug addicts and prison offenders to rehabilitate them back into society) as her uncle is the pastor there.

She helps around where help is needed and befriends the residents. The place also has a small vegetable farm. “I like being around nature.”

As for her plans for the future, she said: “It’s not to do anything big – but just to do little things with more love.”


By Jimmy Yap

TAGS cancer nurse, experience with cancer patient