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Impact 0518: Lessons learnt as a final year student nurse in a pandemic

Nur Sarah · 7 April 2022
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Nur Sarah Binte Abdul Rahman, 21, is a graduating student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic pursuing a Diploma in Health Science, Nursing. What started as a facile beginning swiftly turned into years filled with a rollercoaster of emotions as she was deployed early to her final internship during the pandemic. 

She shares 10 of the lessons she learnt as a student and frontline worker that helped her get through this challenging season.

Be ready to adapt to change at any moment

Always keep an open mind and be prepared to embrace change. Namely, when home-based learning became the new modus operandi, classes were taken online and my battleground soon became platforms such as MSTeam and Zoom. In addition, thrown in were the numerous deadlines for submissions in a hybrid of submission modes, which only made navigation more chaotic. 

I decided to think about all the ways in which this new normal was going to become the latest “pet” I would love. For one, having more time on my hands meant I was going to be able to complete more things. I was also able to study in the comfort of my own home. My room became my lecture hall, library and canteen. Soon, I was saving so much time and achieving so much more. 

Over time, I realised how adaptability expands an individual’s capacity to handle change. As said by Lakhdar Brahimi, “Don’t ask reality to conform to your blueprint, but transform your blueprint to adapt to reality.” 

Pace yourself

Life is a marathon, not a sprint so it is paramount to pace yourself accordingly. Do not rush the process, allow yourself to grow at your own pace. Everyone is different, so stop comparing your life to what others are achieving. Take a breather and indulge in something you love or that restores your soul. If you have a hobby you enjoy, by all means do that. 

As for myself, I am at ease when I am surrounded by my loved ones who momentarily distracts me from my troubles and worries. This is so you can come back to reality with fire in your bones to chase after your goals and conquer any obstacles thrown your way. Follow the patterns of your energy, doing what you can, when you can. In time, when times are tough and feel like an uphill climb, you will be able to do it.

You only live once

Living by this motto has allowed me to be someone who is willing to take risks. I am able to live my life to the fullest potential instead of dwelling on regrets. While many may misinterpret this common phrase as an excuse to initiate rash and impulsive decisions, I believe otherwise. Instead, it constantly reminds me of the fact that because we humans only live once, we should make the best out of the days we have. This means seizing the day to make life extraordinary and worthwhile. 

On that note, life is unpredictable and through the years, I have realised that unforeseen circumstances add flavour to life, and without these uncertainties, we humans often fail to value life to its proper extent. In conclusion, building up the belief that life is full of surprises and accepting what is in store for you is a sure-fire way to lead your life in peace. 

Surround yourself with the right people

When I was younger, I had a few friendships that took a huge toll on my life. I found myself skipping remedial classes, finding excuses to bail on the extra tuition my parents paid for and forgoing any semblance of the “bright future” everyone said I had. I learnt it the hard way to make better choices for friends — those who brought light and positivity into my life, people who would go the extra mile to guide and push me to the fullest. 

The sad truth is, people can either inspire you or they drain you, so pick them wisely. Being around the right people brings out the best version of yourself and I have realised, over the years, that removing toxic people from your life is a superior form of self-care. I would not be where I am today without the few friends I can now call family, and I’m eternally grateful for their presence in my life.

Be patient over what befalls you

As a strong believer in my religion, I have always upheld the idea of being patient. Good things take time and they comes to those who wait. Things may not be as you wish, but if it is meant to be, it will be. Nothing will come easy and indeed, what is to come will be better than what has gone by. 

Everything happens for a reason, you may not know the reason behind what is happening now but it will eventually unfold. Trust the process and believe in good. Everyone has their ups and downs but it is the patience that gets you through the storm in order to see the rainbow on the other side.

Take a leap of faith

Generally, most people are afraid of diving into uncertainty or unfamiliarity. Taking a leap of faith means throwing yourself in the unknown and letting go of the need to control your life. This allows individuals to step out of their comfort zone and redefine themselves. As I see it, it empowers me to overcome unnecessary fears. 

Focusing on the “what if” scenarios paralyses an individual growth potential. Avoid magnifying all the negatives by viewing the glass half-empty. Instead, try to shift your mindset and focus on all the endless possibilities. Lay hold of any opportunity brought your way because you will never know what is behind a closed door.

Practice optimism

It is easy to aspire to keep a positive mindset, but in reality it is easier said than done. It takes a lot of courage to do so and we are all humans who are bound to have bad days, potentially leading to negative thoughts. Also, it is completely normal to worry about the unknown, but it is the way an individual responds which is more imperative. 

A personal example of focusing on the greater good was when I was deployed early to my final internship during the pandemic with an increased risk of being infected. What if I contract the virus and my family gets it too? What happens then? Will my graduation be delayed because of this? Those were the few questions that ran through my mind when the school broke the news. 

Nevertheless, despite the fear of contracting the virus, I found myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude to not only be given the opportunity to pursue my internship, but also to help my nation in a tangible way. By choosing to reframe an undesirable situation, I opened up the door for more light into my life.

Grit and tenacity is key

When the pandemic emerged, schools started implementing home-based learning, which took a huge toll on my life. It was no walk in the park. I struggled in the beginning, thinking I was not going to make it. On top of that, as a final year student nurse, it was mandatory to complete a set of hours in provision for a Registered Nurse licence here in Singapore. 

Fundamentally, despite the pandemic where most internships from other courses were delayed or subjected to Work From Home (WFH), my cohort and I were still posted to hospitals. With the shortage of nurses, the final internship was pushed forward in order to supplement hospitals for the lack of manpower. To top things off, I had to don Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) everyday throughout the entire internship, which only made it more physically testing. Being placed in a ward with high admission and discharge rates made it even more chaotic. 

Still, I pressed on with the goal I had in mind: to learn as much as I can and be the best that I can be, everyday. Through self-reflection, I realised that I would not have been able to complete this journey without going through the hurdles I faced with grit and tenacity. The importance of not giving up easily is another valuable factor that has played a significant role in my life.

Hard work pays off

As cliché as it sounds, I have always stood by this quote. If I could advise anyone in the world, this would be the first mantra I would instantly think of. Everyone is bound to go through tough times, possibly making everything in life feel pointless and inconsequential. However, with persistent dedication, the end result will be worthwhile. 

Hard work has led me to achieve greater things than I thought possible. My diploma journey has been a toilsome and challenging one, I had multiple downturns and broke down several times, but at the end of the day I knew it will be rewarding. 

With my drive and determination, I was placed on the Director’s List for three consecutive years. I was also awarded the Edusave Certificate of Academic Achievement for achieving excellent academic performance and demonstrating good conduct. Over time, my achievements have allowed me to better defend my belief that hard work pays off. 

Have goals, not dreams

From my standpoint, many fail to realise the difference between goals and dreams. As defined, goals are tangible and concrete aims that possess a specific deadline. It requires a lot of focus and commitment whereas dreams, on the other hand, are just ideas that pass through your mind. It is easy to dream, think and talk about it. You can sit for hours and dream without doing anything about it. Without goals, dreams stay as wishes, hopes and thoughts without the possibility of becoming reality. 

While dreams can momentarily inspire someone, goals are the reason why most people get through the day and persevere on. Just like others, I too have goals that I would like to achieve in life and it is one of the many reasons I keep pushing on.

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