Monday, October 15, 2012

The nurse-nun's story

I watched "The Nun's Story" on DVD yesterday. According to Wikipedia, the film is based on a novel with the same title written by Kathryn Hulme. It is a fictionalized story based on the real-life experience of Kathryn's partner Marie Louise Habets, who was a Belgian nurse and a former Religious Sister (i.e. Catholic nun).

As I watched the movie, I recognize the bullying (by some senior Religious Sisters) on the pretext of training "obedience" and "humility" in their younger nun (acted by Audrey Hepburn) training to be a nurse. [See also here.]

Now if one traces the history of female nurses in Singapore, one would learn that the first female nurses in Singapore were Catholic nuns from the Society of St Vincent de Paul assigned to (the Singapore) General Hospital. If you want to find out more juicy stories of struggles for power, accusations of bullying and discrimination, I recommend that you read "The Origins of Nursing in Singapore" from the Singapore Medical Journal.
[Note: According to a hospital's website, another group of Catholic nuns were serving as nurses in Singapore even earlier than the St Vincent de Paul group.]
I am generalizing here, but apparently the nursing culture in Singapore started out on the wrong foot and has continued to this present age. E.g. I am so sorry that even a lay-Catholic ADON subscribed to such out-dated ideas of how a nurse should behave -- i.e. accept all "shit", shut up and serve humanity with humility. Sorry, madam, we join nursing to be professionals (not to be exploited), and we certainly did not take any vow of "chastity, humility and poverty" that your nuns did.

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