Cancer battle made her switch to nursing

After recovering from colon cancer, Ms Jasmine Tan decided that she wanted to help others.

She quit her job as an electrical engineer to study to become a nurse and, yesterday, she was recognised as one of the best in Singapore.

The 48-year-old senior staff nurse, who now trains recruits at St Luke's Hospital, was one of 100 nurses to receive the Nurses' Merit Award.

The prize recognises nurses who have demonstrated consistent outstanding peformance for the past three years and a dedication to the nursing profession.

Ms Tan believes that being a cancer patient helped her as a nurse.

"I can share my experience, especially for patients diagnosed with cancer, and let them know they're not alone," she said.

Ms Tan was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001 after recognising her symptoms when she read an article in Reader's Digest. She was sent for treatment and recovered fully.

"I consider myself lucky because I detected it early and could go for surgery," she said. "Sometimes people are not as educated and don't know how to spot these symptoms. I thought to myself, being a nurse, I could help to explain to them what's going on, and could potentially save lives."

The desire to help others prompted her to pursue studies in nursing and she became a nurse in 2008.

She recalls how the nurses who took care of her during her stay in hospital had been encouraging and tried to make her feel positive about her situation. She said: "They would talk about their families and joke, they were like friends to me... their efforts touched and inspired me."

Her colleague at St Luke's, advanced practice nurse Tan Mui Lan, 41, said: "(Jasmine's) heart is always for the patients, she's always watching out for them, helping them even in little things like covering them with a blanket or pouring them some water."

Speaking at the award ceremony at Raffles Town Club, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said: "Our nursing workforce is the backbone of the healthcare sector and the dynamo that will help drive the transformation of our healthcare system to meet the needs and challenges in the future.

"We will invest consistently in the recruitment, retention and training of our nurses to build a highly skilled nursing workforce that can bring better health and better care for our citizens."

This article was first published on July 20, 2016.
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