When Shi Min won a scholarship to pursue a career in nursing, she was thrilled: It gave her the chance to make a real difference to those who needed her the most – the sick and suffering.
For the first-year National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate, nursing’s appeal is evident. She had an avid passion for subjects like biology, chemistry and more specifically, the inner workings of the human body since she was a child.
The interest did not stop at mere academic curiosity. Shi Min knew that she wanted a career that could help her use her knowledge to make a tangible difference in people’s lives.
Medicine was an option, but she wanted a role which had a more nurturing influence on her patients - one that would help her build genuine rapport.
“Nursing is not just a career where you assist doctors and help patients to maintain personal hygiene. Nurses are the ones standing by the patients and providing holistic care in the form of physical, emotional and mental support,” said Shi Min.
After months of careful deliberation, she decided to follow her heart and applied for NUS’ Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies.
She is aware that not many Singaporeans would consider nursing as a profession, but the struggle with societal expectations has not broken her spirit. On the contrary, the experience has given her a new resolve - Shi Min is now determined not just to be a great nurse; she also wants to be the profession's greatest advocate.
“The public are unaware of the many possible routes for nurses and many still perceive it as a thankless job,” she said. “Singapore has an ageing population, we need more healthcare workers to meet the people’s needs but public perception hinders many potential nurses from joining the profession.”
She added: “We all need to remember that the quality of care does not merely depend on medical procedures. The process of a patient’s recovery is helped along by the warmth and comfort provided by nurses.”
Shi Min wants to take up the mantle of nursing education in future, to smash stereotypes and inspire other youths to put on their scrubs.
For now, she is enjoying the fruits of her hard-won NUS Global Merit Scholarship. The scholarship has a stringent criteria and is awarded only to top-performing students. What Shi Min appreciated the most was that it did not come with a bond.
She said: “Personally, I dislike being tied down to an organisation after my studies. It limits your outlook in life and you never know when you will want to try out something new. This scholarship allows me to fully utilise my undergraduate years to experience all the opportunities present with a nursing degree.”
The guarantee of on-campus accommodation has given Shi Min a chance to explore her varied interests while staying in Tembusu College.
“It is a really amazing place,” she enthused. “We have tea sessions, fun electives and you get to meet all sorts of different people.”
Just because you are studying for a healthcare degree does not mean four full years of lectures and seminars. At NUS, Shi Min has found much to interest her outside the classroom.
“Tembusu organises regular tea sessions with speakers from different backgrounds. We had a really interesting talk about the Berlin Wall where they brought in actual chunks of the wall!”
Apart from engaging in enlightening chats over cups of chai, Shi Min is also a member of the university's Rotaract Club – a society devoted to community service. Every week, she spends hours of her leisure time reading to underprivileged kids in the local community centre.
In addition, she is also an urban gardener who tends to Tembusu’s many shrubs, an arts and crafts enthusiast, as well as a volunteer in “We Will Dance”, a dance marathon organised by the University Scholars Programme.
“Staying in Tembusu really broadens your horizons. It removes your inertia and you take part in all sorts of random stuff outside of your primary interests,” explained Shi Min.
With so many extracurricular activities, juggling schoolwork and personal hobbies can become quite a stressful balancing act. But not for Shi Min, who seems cheerily undaunted by the long list of commitments as she draws strength from her support network at NUS.
“When things get really tough, my flatmates are always there to support me and I know I do not have to go through this alone. We are like a second family!” she continued chirpily.