Saturday, March 28, 2009

Racism and stereotype

Nursing involves a lot of interpersonal interactions. In the multi-cultural world of nursing, racism and racial stereotype occasionally rears its ugly head. The following takes a look at the 4 major Singapore "official" races and their behaviour in the hospital setting. Will not cover about the foreign workers or clients here, that's another big topic altogether.


A colleague K of a particular minority race complains that some patients of the majority race tends to look down her race and that they would complain more when she is on-duty. On the other hand, this colleague practises racism herself.

For patients who are planned for discharge the following morning, K would not order lunch or dinner for the patients, which is standard hospital policy. If other staff orders lunch for the these patients, the other staff would get a earful from her. However, if the patients were of her own racial group, she would still order lunch, which is not the hospital policy. I close my eyes on such order because at times it is more convenient for us nurses to order ahead and allow the system to drop the patient off the list upon discharge. Although the NO would not be happy about the costs involved.

Just discovered yesterday, K has become more brazen in her racist meal ordering. She ordered companion meals FOC for an adult patient when the companion did not sign-off to pay for the extra meal. Fortunately, I had another colleague M who agreed that the extra meals should not be ordered and witness to the extra meal order cancellation.

Guess what? M is also from the same racial group as K. So far, I have not heard of M complaining about racism against her from patients of the majority race. Personally I occasionally face racism from patients of K's minority race. However, I would not be bothered too much by them. Most of the time, the patients are ok once the communication and rapport is established.


Here are some racial stereotypes of the typical hospital patients and their relatives. Guess which is which.

A: Relatives or patients who ask for more of whatever that is FOC. E.g. One grandma ever asked for 1 new tin of free milk powder for every day of a child's in-patient stay. We turned down that request, of course. The baby would be grotesquely fat if he can finish 1 tin of milk powder a day!

B: Relatives who come visit as a whole big group. This provides good psychological support for the patient. However it becomes a problem if it is not a single room, and the other patients are disturbed. E.g. A child was running around, chanting out loud in a 6-bedded ward. His huge group of relatives disregard the disturbances caused to the other patients, focusing on chatting with their elderly patient. Finally, a neighbouring patient complained to me. Thus I had to stop the child running around and chanting. The child started crying and only then did the mother intervene to chide the child.

C: Patients who regularly complain of pain++++++. E.g. At first I thought this is a myth, but my observations show that there is no smoke without fire. Not sure if it is the cultural environment that encourage such verbosity. Anyway, FYI, one will NOT get extra good care just because one complaints more.

D: Patients who are polite and smiley, but shoot complaint letter after discharge. Not citing example since it's not my personal experience. So far, my personal experience with this group is rather positive. Touch wood :-P

As I have mentioned, the above are stereotypes, aka, the black sheep of their group. Most are supportive.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The value of a human life

Something is keeping me awake. I have to get up and be ready for morning shift in 2 hours, but something I read on the internet is disturbing me deeply.

That something is a suicide letter penned on 4-March-2009 by Allan Ooi [see below or click here], a medical officer who killed himself to escape his SAF bond. Whatever the reasons SAF has for its system, one cannot help but ponder if a little flexibility on their part might just alter the tragic end. Afterall, even if he were to break the bond, he would not be the only one. What's more? I find it ironic that foreign scholars escape prosecution by exiting the little red dot, while born-and-bred Singaporeans (e.g. Acid Flask) are hounded even when they are overseas. Should a mistake in one's career choices have such damaging effects? What, indeed, is the value of a human life? Is a Singapore citizen's dignity and freedom worth less than those of his "foreign talent" counterpart?

Guess another point that disturbs me greatly is that Allan Ooi wrote, "I can happily say that I have led a full life, despite ending at the age of 27". I can guess at what he meant, for I too had wished for an end to my life when I was 28. But that's another story. Back to sleep for now.


[Alleged suicide note from Dr Allan Ooi, copied from Mr Lim website.]

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Allan Ooi
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 12:29 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
To the people I care about
I have decided to end my life. I will do so happily, at peace with the life I have lived. Yet unfortunately, I am also painfully aware of the pain I am causing a number of people – my family, dear friends, and others whom my actions have hurt or inconvenienced. Therefore, I am penning a brief, inadequate, yet hopefully comforting letter to attempt an explanation for not only my jettison of an old life and all it represents, but the entirety of thought I’ve processed during. I am performing this task of writing with reluctance and brevity, so please forgive any lack of insight or substance that might have been hoped for.
I am not depressed, and never have been. I was, however, intensely unhappy at the point of my departure from home, family and friends.
My job was terrible – no joy, no satisfaction, 10-14 hours a day of nothing. A prison. One of my own forging, perhaps, by signing a contract with the SAF at the age of 18. Youth was not an excuse, yes, but I refused to accept being deceived into believing things about the nature of my employment that were simply untrue. 12 years of bonded service became potentially 15 or 16, became unbreakable, became stifling to the point of utter hopelessness. How can a bond be unbreakable? How can it be extended at will by an administration simply by passing a paper? and how can the people subject to this bond not even question it, but instead sit in silent resentment and ultimate dissatisfaction? I was angry, so angry, which stemmed ultimately from a sense of waste and imprisonment so profound that I had no choice but to leave it entirely. To the people within this system, please change it to better benefit yourselves and future generations, instead of creating a self-perpetuating cycle of at best, painful obligation, and at worst, utter despair.
That was certainly the main cause of my severing of ties. However, it is not the only one.
I can happily say that I have led a full life, despite it ending at the age of 27.
I have many friends, some true friends among whom I value very highly (if you are reading this, you know who you are). Thank you for your love, trust and friendship. Especially those who sought to contact me after I Left, long after even, you are truly special people.
My family is loving, despite flaws which are inherent in every family. My father is a strong man, with excellent values and incredible purpose, traits my brother has inherited well, and I respect them both for it. My mother has so much love, and persistently gave it to me even though I was frequently undeserving. And my sister, I love you so much, you are the one I hated leaving the most.
I have been fortunate to have been blessed with health, intelligence, and talent for a number of things, and even further blessed to have been able to apply these things to my life. I only hope that through the years, this life of mine has caused more good and happiness than pain and unhappiness.
However, I have also developed a number of unsavory qualities which I dislike about myself. I have lies, deceived, badmouthed and hurt people whom I care about, in enough frequency to be somewhat repulsed by myself for it. Foolish pride has reared its ugly head in my life more often than I care to admit, and fractured perfectly good relationships.
I have only truly loved (and still love) one woman, despite my numerous flings, and the failure of that relationship destroyed me in many ways. I retaliated by in turn hurting many people after, and I apologise, so much, for doing so.
My best friend – the small betrayal you perpetrated was just that, so small. Why haven’t we spoken since? I value your friendship so much.
There’s so much more than I could say and want to say, but I have to be satisfied and hope that this is all I should say. So I come to the crux of this letter – I am deeply sorry, for the pain I have caused, and the follies I have perpetrated during my brief life. Yet I am also very, very thankful for the blessings I have received, and the many joys I have experienced, through love, family and friendship. I sincerely hope that my passing causes minimal grief, and that these words help to do just that. Perhaps my final act is one of cowardice, but I like to think of it as one of resolution. I do not believe in an afterlife, or a God. Death should be final and absolute. In my time away from home, I have come to reinforce my belief that all ideologies, religions and dogmata of our day are merely facades with which to perpetuate our lives. I have no sufficient investment or interest in any such temporal or spiritual thinking, and this is the main thrust of my decision to pass from the world. I die happy, at peace, almost eager to see what comes next, if anything at all.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why change to nursing?

Sometimes when people discover that nursing is not my 1st career, they would ask about my previous career. Their next question would often be, "Why did you change to nursing?".

In all honesty, I cannot think of a single compelling reason in answer to the above question. Perhaps I should quote the movie "Slumdog Millionare" and reply, "It is written".

Yesterday I replied an email from a friend in the financial industry. The reply was done at the end of a "not-so-great" day at work. Although my friend did not asked the above question directly, I found that this is my most honest non-paranormal perspective on my career switch. [For the paranormal perspective, click here.]

--- Start of email ---

Dear [edited],

I am well. At the moment, I am about 5 weeks from the end of my nursing course, still doing my final clinical attachment at [edited]. On the tough days, I wonder why I'm into this line, not something else that relies more on my best asset - my brains. However, on the good days, I enjoy the camaraderie, satisfaction of serving my clients, and the chance to give myself a psychological "break" from the "Money Money Money" financial world. Overall though, in these gloomy times, I'm glad to be in one of the few sectors that is still in-demand.


--- End of email ---

Abba - Money, money, money

Monday, March 09, 2009

Procrastination and boredom

I am bored.

Have tons of self-assigned work to be done, but am procrastinating on them. Strangely enough, I know that once I get started, the workaholic in me will probably keep the "engine going" until the work is done. Maybe that's why I have not started yet. Don't feel rested enough since catching some bugs a fortnight ago. Thus I am bumming around for now.

So what did I do on this day-off?

Woke up from interrupted sleep around 4+am, surf the net for about 1 hour. Checked about Vitamin B12 nutritional intake for the 2nd time in a week... just numbing the brain over my Vit B12 concerns. Loved the cute characters running about the screen on the Malaysian Milo website. The Singapore Milo website was rather bland and uninformative in contrast. Went back to sleep.

Woke up again around 9:20am to the smell and noise of fumigation. Guess it's the rain induced dengue-season again. Jumped up from bed, closed all the windows. Half-dazed, the brain debated the pros and cons of going back to sleep versus staying awake to seal the rubbish chute as advised by the Town Council notification. While the brain was in the talks, the body went on auto-pilot mode, took out the masking tape, put on a face mask, and went about sealing the rubbish chute :-P Washed my hands and face. Went back to sleep.

Next thing I know it's after 12noon! Woke up, switched on my computer to get information to reply a friend's sms query. Brushed my teeth and washed my face. While the brain listed out the merits of a shower (yup, I was so physically tired the night before that I went to bed without showering), the body plonked itself in-front of the computer, started surfing the internet and checking and replying emails.

At 2+pm, the stomach grumbled. Settled the hungry stomach with a thick cup of Milo (made-in-Singapore, yeah!), with brewer's yeast for added nutrition. Mixed the Milo with water and half a can of Redbull leftover from yesterday. Bought the Redbull to evaluate it as a potential Vit B12 quick-fix. Don't think it'll work out for me. Cannot imagine drinking the syrupy sweet solution that tastes like children's cherry-flavoured cough medication. In fact, added it to my Milo, to camouflage the Redbull's nauseating sweetness. Waste not, ya?

Continued with surfing the internet. Read the news of another 2 cases of falls, after the 2 recent cases of NTU student deaths within the same week (see this and this). One was a man who suddenly stopped buying his regular $1 "rice + 1-vegetable" meal and fell to his death a few days later. Another was a girl who fell through a gap in the railings along the 4th storey HDB lift-landing to hit the ground-floor concrete. She survived and was hospitalized for multiple fractures. The Town Council was quick to offer to pay all her medical expenses. However, one wonders who will foot the bill if there is any long-term medical and/or functional complication(s)?

Around 4+pm, finally got sick of my smelly body and got around to a top-to-toe clean-up. When it was done, decide to get some minimal tasks done, to placate the Parent (see Transactional Analysis). Filled up a lucky draw coupon to be sent (hope I get lucky), updated my clinical attachment record (a.k.a. "Learning Guide"), checked out my visa statement and prepared for payment, arranged for a gathering with family the next fortnight, and updated my pocket diary. Having covered my guilt trip, went back to mindless surfing again.

Finally got off my ass around 8:25pm to address my sudden craving for the vegetarian-chicken rice from a foodcourt nearby. A pleasant surprise to find the chicken rice on promotion, 50 cents off its usual $3.50 price. Unfortunately, it was sold out.

Strolled around the pasar malam for food instead. Bought "cup corn" (short for steamed corn in a cup), steamed chickpeas, "tea-leaves eggs" (hard-boiled eggs steamed in Chinese-style spiced herbal tea). In line with my personal "support fellow Singapore citizens" policy, I chose to buy from the stall whose owners looked and sounded like true-blue Singaporean locals. Offered 2 tea-leaves eggs to a cupboard-collecting elderly couple, but the lady turned it down. Respect their dignity for their recycling work. Guess they have each other's companionship and "enough".

Went home. Surf the net again. Once again concluded that Singapore is just not geared for the long-term well-being of its citizens. Surfed again to the Australian immigration website and dreamt about migrating to Australia. Calculated that I would be in the best position to emigrate in 3 years time.

Lastly, jotted down my thoughts here before I call it a day. Woah! It took me 2 hours and 15 mins to jot down this long-winded entry. A new way to kill time!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

About winking doll

Winking doll was the first doll that I had. I received it probably around age 2. It was a dark-brown skinned doll with short and tight bronze-brown curls, fixed plastic head, neck, body and legs, with movable arms at shoulder joints. The plastic face had a fixed expression of a winking right-eye and a corresponding twist of a cheeky smile.

Despite having fought for it, my initial thoughts were, "What an ugly doll! How can anyone love it?"

My doll "instantly rebuked", "If you cannot love imperfections, then how and why do you expect others to love you?"

Voila! My earliest memorable lesson on humanity and love. I grew to love the doll as my own "child". I was heartbroken when I had to surrender it at age 2 years 4 months.