With nearly two decades’ experience in healthcare, Advanced Practice Nurse Tang Ping Sin specialises in palliative care at St Luke’s Hospital, where she continues to be dedicated to patient-centred care, offering solace, empathy and support to those facing life-limiting diseases.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TRANSITION INTO PALLIATIVE CARE AFTER MANY YEARS IN DIFFERENT SPECIALITIES?
I was praying for an open door through which I could contribute more and make an impact on more people’s lives, and out of curiosity I first took up the challenge of palliative care with a role at Assisi Hospice in 2020 for over a year. I realised then that I could make a significant contribution to the lives of patients and their loved ones, to journey with them till the last, giving the patients relief from their symptoms, and guiding the family members on how to care for their loved ones.
Someone once told me, “There is only one chance to make it right”, so if we can give our best care to patients and their families during this phase, it will make a great difference to the family members who will live on with a better memory of their loved ones.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SERIOUS ILLNESSES, IN ADDITION TO CANCER, THAT YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE CARING FOR IN A PALLIATIVE CARE SETTING? WHAT STRATEGIES DO YOU USE TO MANAGE PAIN AND OTHER SYMPTOMS?
Other serious illnesses that I have come across are advanced dementia, advanced Parkinson’s disease, end-stage heart failure, end-stage renal failure, advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and neuromuscular disease, to name a few.
The gold standard for managing those symptoms is to identify their root cause and deal with it, whether through pharmacological means or not. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; every patient’s care is dependent on their needs.
TO WHAT EXTENT IS TAKING CARE OF A NON-CANCER PATIENT DIFFERENT? WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DO CAREGIVERS FACE?
Taking care of a non-cancer patient comprises managing chronic illness with added-on end-of-life symptom management such as pain, breathlessness, delirium, psychosocial issues, and emotional and spiritual pain, to name a few.
HOW WOULD YOU GUIDE PATIENTS AND CAREGIVERS WHO MAY BE UNCERTAIN AS TO THE RIGHT TIME FOR PALLIATIVE CARE?
I would advise them to initiate the conversation with their primary physician and to share the type of care they need to continue with the life they want.
WHAT ARE SOME DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE AS A PALLIATIVE CARE NURSE? WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
One challenge is compassion fatigue. In the palliative care setting, as part of the palliative care team, we are constantly taking care of seriously ill or dying patients and witnessing the pain, trauma, and suffering experienced by both patients and their caregivers.
The many levels of stress can cause us compassion fatigue, but I’m blessed to have the support of the great team and leadership at St Luke’s Hospital. I find it meaningful to continue serving in this “mission field” and that’s what keeps me going.
AT THE END OF A WORK DAY, WHAT DOES A JOB WELL DONE LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
The whole team’s aim is to address the loved ones and their family members’ concerns, and for them to have a good closure.
WHAT DOES “LIVE WELL. LEAVE WELL.” MEAN TO YOU?
To me, “Live Well” means to obey His will on earth, and “Leave Well” means to complete the race faithfully and run into His arms.
Photos: St Luke’s Hospital