Role reversal

We chat with Jonathan Lim, an SIT undergraduate reading a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Nursing Practice at The University of Manchester, to find out what he thinks of working in a profession that is traditionally dominated by women.

Dover Hospice

Jonathan Lim (second from right) and his classmates taking a break during a palliative attachment


1) Tell us about your educational background.

I graduated with a diploma in Nursing with merit from Nanyang Polytechnic in 2011. I went for my National Service and immediately after, I joined SIT and took up a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Nursing Practice at The University of Manchester in 2013. I will graduate this year.

2) At what point in your life did you realise that nursing was what you wanted to do?

I decided to be a nurse following an incident which happened when I was 13 years old. Back then, I was diagnosed with a rare brain infection known as Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which rendered me paralysed from the chest down. Fortunately, I was able to make a full recovery with the support and care from my family and healthcare professionals.

This incident awakened me to the fact that life is precious and fragile. I also realised then that I want to be there for people when they need help most.

3) Why did you pick SIT to take up a nursing degree?

Studying at SIT gave me the opportunity to have a unique experience, one that caters to polytechnic graduates in nursing.

At the same time, getting an SIT degree would take me a ‘level’ higher and help improve the care I can give to my patients. At polytechnic, the focus of my studies was on clinical skills and knowledge. While they formed the foundation for nursing care, this degree imparts to me a much larger body of knowledge about the nursing practice which will allow me to contribute even more to the ever-evolving industry of healthcare.

4) Nursing is often considered one of the most underrated professions. Why do you think this is the case?

I think nursing is underrated because of the perception that nurses are low-skilled workers. Another reason is that nurses often perform tasks that are seen as unglamorous, which compounds that belief.

5) What are some of the biggest challenges that you face at work?

One is the heavy workload, which constitutes a big challenge. On one hand, as a nurse, I would like to do my best when caring for my patients. One the other hand, I only have this much time and resources.

Another major challenge pertains to the emotional element – when it comes to care-giving, emotions definitely come into play. There are times when I leave work feeling down because I’m unable to ease patients’ anxieties or even when patients pass away.

6) To what extent has your degree programme at SIT helped you at work?

Substantially. For example, when I was attached to a psychiatric nursing home, I conducted an educational session on dental hygiene for ward nurses, after assessing the patients’ needs for better oral hygiene. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I hadn’t taken up my degree at SIT and learned about mentorship and education in the clinical setting.

7) Share with us one major misconception that people have about nursing.

I think one misconception people often have about nursing is that nurses are ‘beneath’ doctors in terms of skills and knowledge. This is a myth because doctors and nurses are experts in two different fields – doctors are trained in the medical sciences while nurses are educated in the art and science of care-giving. Both roles should be seen as equally important when improving a patient’s overall health.

For instance, a doctor makes sure that a patient is properly diagnosed and prescribes the correct medication. It is just as important that this medication is administered correctly and safely by a nurse.

8) Lady of the Lamp, Florence Nightingale, was the pioneer of modern nursing – and female. Is there a male role model who might have inspired you in the same way?

Definitely. I once knew a male nursing colleague who left a lasting impression on me because of the way he cared for his patients. He accorded them with the kind of respect one would have for their parents – he would address each and every one of his patients by their names and he always had a cheerful disposition.

9) Share with us a challenge that you face as a male nurse.

Some patients just don’t like to be cared for by a male nurse. I’ve had a patient who told me he felt male nurses were rough and inconsiderate. Consequently, he refused to let me be his care giver.

10) By contrast, do you think being male has helped you at work in any way?

Yes. Contrarily, there have been occasions when patients warmed up to me more easily because they empathise with my being a male nurse (and the difficulties I faced). In fact, during one occasion, when I was chatting with a female patient, she told me that she was thankful I had joined the nursing practice because there were so few guys in this profession. She also confided in me that she was more comfortable with me because I resembled her grandson.

11) Nursing is a profession which seems to have problems with attracting talent. Do you agree?

Yes, I do think that this is a growing concern. Many factors are contributing to this, be it the job’s workload, salary or even passion.

One way to address this issue would be to look at how to change public mindsets on nursing; that would also play a big role in generating interest in the nursing profession, something which the Ministry of Health did recently through various initiatives.