Published on 25 July 2023

    From supporting doctors in the high-pressured environment of an operating theatre, to helping palliative care patients pass peacefully, Senior Staff Nurse Augustine Yan is driven by his commitment to always do his best.

    For Senior Staff Nurse Augustine Yan, there is nothing quite so satisfying as to help his patients feel better.

    Even if patients are on their death beds.

    “I think death shouldn’t be viewed as a failure of medicine or healthcare, but rather one of the available goals of care,” Mr Yan explained. 

    “As nurses in the ward, we sometimes get the opportunity to help patients with palliative needs. Seeing them on their death bed in peace without pain or suffering can be consoling, heartening and fulfilling. I think that’s one of the most noble things that an individual can do to show our love for one another.”

    Nonetheless, Mr Yan admits that – even after five years as a nurse – dealing with the death of patients, especially those who he had formed a bond with, can be tough.

    “It’s really difficult to see these patients pass on and witness how their families grieve,” Mr Yan said. “Sometimes, I get emotionally affected when I reach home and think about their passing. 

    “It’s about being able to manage emotions during difficult moments. I remind myself that I shouldn’t be spending too much time grieving, and I cannot let my emotions hinder my clinical work. After all, there are other patients who are in need of care, and I need to focus on helping them recover.”

    This determination to provide the best care for his patients, regardless of circumstances, is what drives Mr Yan and his nursing colleagues to go above and beyond in their duties.

    Indeed, their meticulous attention to details has enabled them to promptly identify abnormalities on multiple occasions, allowing them to administer potentially lifesaving measures.

    “As nurses, we are usually the first point of contact with patients,” Mr Yan elaborated. ”Nurses pick up vital signs and early symptoms that are indicative of a deterioration in patient’s health.  

    “Whenever my nursing colleagues and I pick up on any irregular symptoms, we’ll administer immediate corrective measures until the doctors can review the patient for further treatment.”

    Mr Yan recounted one such instance where he and his nursing colleagues’ timely intervention helped prevent a patient from further deteriorating.

    “We once had a severely ill patient admitted to my ward for further investigation to determine the cause of her illness,” Mr Yan recounted. “When the nurses assisted with her toileting, we realised that her stools were suggestive of bleeding from her intestinal tract.

    “The nurses immediately escalated the issue to the doctors, and the healthcare team was able to expedite the investigation, allowing her to receive more intensive care for her condition.”

    Mr Yan, who is on the nursing clinical track, currently works in the operating theatres (OT), and spends most of his time on peri-operative care. 

    While acknowledging that the OT is a fast-paced, high-pressure environment, Mr Yan believes it has helped him develop into a better nurse.

    “Working in the Operating Theatres surgeries requires me to make decisions and prioritise tasks under pressure, within a matter of seconds,” Mr Yan said. 

    “It’s a skill that I had to pick up, but I’ve learnt that the key to efficient surgery is ‘economy of motion’. Every motion is done with a specific purpose, with the goal of maximal fluidity but minimal motion. This allows me to accomplish more task with lesser effort.

    “Nurses in the OT are always on our toes, ready to decide on the best way to act on situations. We anticipate the next instrument or move that the surgeons will take, and how to prioritise the tasks so that the surgery can proceed smoothly. This is especially key during a challenging surgery, or a crucial part of the operation where there is no room for error.”

    Ultimately, Mr Yan highlights that the path to improvement and excellence as a clinical nurse lies in finding joy in what one does.

    “The key in improving the clinical skills is to enjoy the process,” Mr Yan mused. “There are many areas of speciality that a clinical nurse can choose to specialise in. 

    “Some nurses enjoy the adrenaline rush in the emergency department, whereas some prefer to provide excellent service and care for patients in a clinical setting. I am blessed to realise that I truly enjoy the processes in the operating theatres after my first rotation.

    “But once we enjoy the process in the particular speciality, we will naturally find the skills easy to grasp, and the pursuit of mastery then becomes rewarding.”

    In consultation with Augustine Yan, Senior Staff Nurse, NUH

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