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Meet Selina Tang

Selina Tang was studying accountancy when she quickly realised that her true calling did not involve spending long hours in an office crunching numbers.
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​"As illnesses become increasingly complex over time, it is important that nurses continuously enhance their skills and knowledge to effectively care for patients."​​

- ​Selina Tang, Nurse Clinician​​​​ at Woodlands Health​

​​​​After experiencing a profound personal loss, Selina Tang came to understand the critical importance of quality palliative care.

Selina Tang, 47, was studying accountancy when she quickly realised that her true calling did not involve spending long hours in an office crunching numbers. This led to a period of reflection, which prompted the resurfacing of a childhood memory: A visit to a hospital, the smell of disinfectant lingering in the air, where she told her father that she wanted to become a nurse.

This moving memory prompted her to thoroughly research nursing courses, which ultimately led her to switch her career path from accountancy to nursing – a journey that has now spanned 24 years. “Given the chance to go back in time, I would, without a doubt, choose nursing again,” says Selina. “It is a rewarding career and aligns with my deep-rooted desire to provide compassionate care to those who are ill.”

Here, Selina tells us more about her day-to-day work as a nurse clinician at Woodlands Health and shares more about how she has sustained her passion for nursing over the past two decades.

In your 24 years as a nurse, what is a milestone that has been particularly significant to you?

A pivotal moment that significantly reshaped my perspective on nursing occurred when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away in 2008.

During her illness, I witnessed first-hand the constraints in palliative care available at the time. My mother endured unnecessary suffering as her cancer pain was not managed well. This deeply distressing experience ignited within me a deep-rooted desire to delve into palliative care, driven by the determination to relieve the physical and emotional burdens faced by both patients and their families.

Motivated by the memory of my mother and fuelled by a commitment to enhance end-of-life care, I embarked on a journey to understand how best to mitigate the pain associated with cancer and provide support to those navigating the challenging role of caregiver.

Tell us more about your role at Woodlands Health.

As a nurse clinician in an inpatient ward, my primary responsibility is to oversee and manage the daily needs and requirements of patients and staff, as well as the ward under my care. While my current role does not place me within a palliative care setting, I frequently encounter patients, whether affected by cancer or other ailments, who could benefit from palliative care interventions. In such cases, I advocate for their referral to the palliative care team, ensuring they receive the specialised attention and support they require.

In addition to facilitating appropriate patient care pathways, I help optimise the operational efficiency of the ward by ensuring adequate staffing levels daily. Furthermore, I am committed to promoting the well-being of our staff, taking proactive measures to address their welfare needs.

Can you share a story about a patient that left an impression on you?

I encountered a patient with advanced metastatic lung cancer who refused to acknowledge her terminal prognosis. Her family members were also in denial of her condition. Complicating matters, there was some mistrust between the patient and the palliative care team, leading her to reject opioid medications in favour of over-the-counter pain medication.

Navigating this delicate situation required patience, empathy, and extensive communication. The palliative care doctors and nurses embarked on a gradual process of building trust, requiring thorough explanations and reassurances over the course of more than a week. Eventually, the patient agreed to opioid therapy, allowing the healthcare team to manage her pain and administer necessary wound care.

Through conversations with the patient, it became evident that her reluctance stemmed from fears of losing her autonomy and ability to engage in meaningful interactions. In response, the palliative care team collaborated closely with allied health professionals and art therapists to create a supportive environment where the patient could express her thoughts on death indirectly.

After a challenging month marked by familial discord and initial resistance to medical interventions, the patient gradually came to terms with her terminal prognosis. Most importantly, throughout her journey, her dignity and legacy were upheld. She was able to create a painting, a symbolic representation of her life and wishes, which she entrusted to her family for remembrance.

In her final days, surrounded by loved ones, the patient passed away peacefully. Her family expressed gratitude for the compassionate care provided by the palliative care team.

How has the role and job scope of a nurse evolved over the past two decades?

As illnesses become increasingly complex over time, it is important that nurses continuously enhance their skills and knowledge to effectively care for patients. In today's healthcare landscape, nurses have ample opportunities to diversify their careers, with options such as research and information technology roles becoming more prevalent. This contrasts with the limited career pathways available to nurses two decades ago.

Equipped with extensive knowledge and refined skills, nurses are now entrusted with leading interdisciplinary teams, including doctors and allied health professionals, in spearheading initiatives aimed at enhancing patient care outcomes.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role with Woodlands Health?

Despite facing daily challenges – whether in patient care or staff management – I am grateful that my nursing colleagues and I are able to work as a tight-knit team. Even when one of us is absent, we have faith in one another that the work will be effectively managed and completed.

Our bosses are also receptive to the suggestions we offer to lessen the workload of nurses. Furthermore, they actively encourage us to pursue further education, so that we may enhance our knowledge and advance in our careers. ​