Being able to help people is the main reason why 29-year-old nurse Li Bo took up nursing as a profession.
In fact, she was so determined to be a nurse that she came to Singapore against her father’s wishes – he was against her coming to Singapore.
Undeterred, Li Bo completed her studies and eventually started working at a local hospital as an inpatient nurse. A few years later, she was headhunted to be part of the oncology nursing team at Parkway Cancer Centre where she now works.
“It was very challenging at the start but I loved it,” she says.
At her previous hospital in a medical oncology ward, it was so hectic that it was usually one nurse to seven patients during the day shift and one nurse to 16 patients during the night shift.
“It was so overwhelming and I felt I could not give my patients quality care.,” she says. “Here at Parkway Cancer Centre, I take care of about seven to 12 patients on a long-term basis. I feel honoured to be able to be there for them while they’re going through one of the toughest times of their lives.”
Li Bo makes it a point to arrive at work early so as to prepare medication for those who are undergoing chemotherapy. Apart from that, she also goes through the doctors’ orders and her patients’ lab work to ensure that their treatment is going smoothly and according to plan.
A self-confessed introvert, Li Bo says she had to learn how to communicate with her patients.
“I’m a quiet person by nature. I had to really make an effort to talk to my patients. But I’ve realised how enjoyable and rewarding it is! While it’s my job to ascertain their physical condition and allay their concerns, I also get to know them better,” Li Bo says.
“Most of the patients under my care have become good friends. I feel I am better able to support them emotionally and mentally.”
Some of her patients have become so close to Li Bo that they keep in contact with her long after their treatment had concluded.
One changed Li Bo’s own outlook on life.
“I had a patient who lived her life so carefully. She made sure not to drink or smoke or indulge in unhealthy food. She exercised regularly and did lots of healthy things. But still, she ended up with cancer,” Li Bo explains.
“During her treatment, she confided in me and told me that she regretted not enjoying herself more. She felt like she lived life too conservatively and now she was suffering even more.”
The patient survived the cancer and the two of them meet up occasionally to catch up.
“Now she’s learning to dance, she’s travelling the world with her husband; she doesn’t want to waste any more time,” Li Bo says.
“She taught me something valuable – to actually live my life. I’ve always been a timid girl and I never dared to do crazy things. Even though I’ve gone to Universal Studios Singapore (USS) so many times, I’ve never sat on the roller coaster.”
But the now gutsy girl has already made plans to go skydiving in Australia before her 30th birthday – and she’s ridden the roller coaster at USS several times already.
“Oncology is one of the most challenging and rewarding fields in nursing,” Li Bo says. “I was afraid of it before. But having worked at Parkway Cancer Centre for more than a year now, I am truly in my element.”
Her colleagues are a big part of the reason. But even bigger is the joy that she feels when she sees her patients leave the centre cancer-free.
She adds: “It’s so hard to see someone who has become your friend suffer and go through so much misery, but it’s worthwhile when you see them get stronger and beat the disease.”
Written by Charmaine Ng