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this woman's work: Stephanie on


In conjunction with International Nurses Day on 12 May 2018, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) highlights the work conducted by community palliative care nurses. YSD is supporting 6 community palliative care nurses with Hospis Malaysia, who provide care and support to patients with terminal illnesses. Below is Stephanie On’s story.

On is one of the 18 nurses in Hospis Malaysia providing palliative care in the community to patients in the Klang Valley. 

STEPHANIE On always felt the need to help people when they are unwell. It was this passion to make things better for the sick that steered her towards a nursing career. 

However, she met her first challenge in pursuing her career after secondary school when she was discouraged from becoming a nurse as it was deemed to be a “dirty” job. So she ventured into other careers, abiding by her mother’s advice. 

But the calling for nursing was too strong to ignore and years later, Stephanie gave in to her growing passion and she pursued further education in nursing. Upon graduation from nursing school, she served in a hospital oncology unit. 

It was then she began to identify with the work being conducted by a palliative care team of a community hospice. 

As a nurse serving in the community, she found the opportunity to spend time communicating with patients, understand their needs, appreciate the environment surrounding patients and their families, to enable her to guide them to determine their goals of care. 

It is her passion for her work and patients that pulled her through some of her worst moments – including having to treat a patient while his pets were attempting to protect their owner, or another time when she had to pull herself together to deal with a patient who was bleeding profusely. 

Times like these reinforced in Stephanie that while it was hard work, and occasionally draining, she knew she was where she belonged. It was her duty to care for those with the greatest health needs, making the most effective use of all her skills and resources. 

Prioritising her patients’ needs also means requiring her to balance between her personal and professional life. Some days it takes longer for Stephanie to reboot after an extremely trying day at work but she says: “Working with my patients is an enriching experience. It enriches me as a person; a mother, a wife, a daughter; and it enriches me as a nurse and colleague.” 

Nurses like Stephanie are “A Voice to Lead”, ensuring that as a nation we have enough nurses who are critical enablers of the human right to health. 

The International Council of Nurses advocate that “Nurses ARE the voice to lead us, by supporting a people-centred approach to care and the health system, and by ensuring that their voices are heard in influencing health policy, planning and provision.”

On is so passionate about her work that she created a clever mnemonic for the word NURSE.

N stands for Name the Emotion. “Palliative care is about treating the patient, not the disease. Different people with the same disease may experience different emotions. They may feel sad, shocked, surprised or neglected. We need to identify and manage these emotions.” 

U stands for Understanding the Patient. “A patient is made up of many parts. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Palliative care nurses look after the whole person.” 

R stands for Respect the Patient’s Wishes. “A patient is not an object. He is a human being, with wants, needs and desires.” 

S stands for Support the Patient and Family. “No man or woman is an island. We are all part of a community. The disease doesn’t affect one person, but an entire community. The pain is shared, and the caregivers are just as important.” 

E is for Empathise. “Empathy is probably the most important part of the job. Without empathy, without the ability to relate to the person, you are just a follower, an order-taker.”

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Last Updated:
11 May 2018
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