Model citizen: Vanitha Semban
How long have you been a nurse?
I’ve been a nurse for about 13 years. I graduated from college in 1998, and I’ve worked in Malaysia and also Saudi Arabia, where I applied to be a staff nurse. In between, I joined a local nursing college as a clinical instructor.
Why Saudi Arabia?
I wanted to experience living abroad. Of course, my first choice was to apply for UK and Australia, but the process and interviews would’ve taken longer. It was a really good experience, and I learned to work independently because in Saudi Arabia, the nursing practice is totally different from the one here.
In Saudi Arabia, as a nurse, you have the authority to plan your patient’s care. Doctors come in only to see the medical complaints of the patient and prescribe medication, and they will get feedback from nurses. We actually hold discussions with the doctor and we plan the patient’s treatment together. In hospitals here, the doctors give orders and the nurses just follow their instructions.
Why do you think that happens?
It’s part of our culture that has been brought into our country from a long time ago. The perception is that nurses always have limited things to do as compared to doctors, and when new consultants come onboard, they have no confidence in nurses.
Is that why you decided to join a mobile healthcare provider like Love on Wheels?
I used to observe patients who are readmitted into the hospital shortly after being discharged, and I used to wonder why that happened. I soon realised there was no continuity of care given to patients after leaving the hospital. Love on Wheels gives an opportunity for nurses like me to go to a patient’s house to assess them, to give them ideas like where to put the bed and what chairs would be suitable for them to sit on. We assist the family members, support them and teach them the best way to take care of their loved ones. I find that Love on Wheels is where we can bridge the gap by offering multidisciplinary support to patients from the comfort of their own home.
Mobile healthcare is an integrated service. As part of the team, we have nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists.
What is your favourite thing about being a nurse?
As a nurse, the best times are when a patient recovers during your care. When you’re with them during their worst and then see them during their recovery, you’ll feel really happy.
What about your least favourite?
The worst is to see a patient pass away.
Is that the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do as a nurse? To see a patient pass on?
The most difficult thing is when I have to inform the family when a patient passes away at home. You have to see who’s the right person to inform and who’s the strongest member in the family.
Is it more difficult to deal with the patient or their family?
There are challenges both ways, but I think dealing with the family of the patient, our client, is slightly more difficult. The patient just wants to be free of pain and their activities need to be taken care of, like showers, so as a nurse, they’re easy to handle. On the other hand, the patient’s family members expect miracles to happen, but you can’t really blame them for that because they just want their loved one to feel better.
What do you think of the current state of healthcare in Malaysia?
The quality of healthcare in Malaysia is certainly improving, but I think the standard of nurses here is not acceptable at the moment. I have to say the colleges are to blame because their products are the nurses we’re getting today. I think the ministers should also put more pressure on nurses and have basic skills training for them. Nowadays, when nurses graduate into the hospital environment, they feel they should just sit around and write reports and provide medication. They prefer to be the doctor’s assistant, and there’s an ego factor as well, like not wanting to clean urinals.
Do you have any advice for aspiring nurses?
First, choose a proper college in order to get qualified trainers because some colleges here have fresh graduates as instructors, which is not relevant. Secondly, make sure you really love the job because nursing is a noble job, and people look to us as saviours when they enter the hospital, so we must meet that requirement. Wong Boon Ken
Vanitha is the nursing supervisor for Love on Wheels. Visit www. loveonwheelshealthcare.com for more information about their services.