Extraordinary Persons: The 72-calendar year-outdated nurse who ‘just needs to be a fantastic human being’

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SINGAPORE: With her brief hair, black semi-rimless glasses and petite frame, Madam Susheela K Chugani cuts a acquainted figure at the Institute of Psychological Health (IMH).

After all, the female that a lot of connect with Sister Susheela has invested the previous 23 decades tending to the requires of individuals at the medical center.

In spite of becoming properly previous her retirement age, the 72-calendar year-outdated, who has been in nursing for additional than fifty decades, carries on to function comprehensive time at the lengthy-remain psychogeriatric ward in IMH.

Age, according to Mdm Chugani, is not a restricting component when it arrives to caring for individuals. For a person of her dementia individuals who has mobility issues, Mdm Chugani will maintain her shoulders as she tries to stroll during treatment periods.

“The very first time I did it, my affected person questioned: ‘You so outdated you, continue to want to maintain me?’ and I replied: ‘Yes, let’s go. If I can, you can do it far too.’”

For yet another affected person who refused to use dresses and would rest bare in his have urine, Mdm Chugani insisted on bathing and garments him each day. She would also deal with him to his favorite you char kway (fried dough fritters) as she experienced him to use dresses and use the bathroom.

Inside months, the affected person started to exhibit signs of enhancement and would say “Good morning” to Mdm Chugani when she arrives at the ward.

“I spend a good deal of time chatting to them and I make guaranteed I notify them each day that becoming unwell is not the finish of the earth,” explained the senior workers nurse. “I notify them to make up their intellect that they are going to get properly and stroll out of the medical center. There is normally hope.”


Becoming a nurse was an ambition that Mdm Chugani had for as lengthy as she could don’t forget. When researching at the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ College, she joined the St John Ambulance Brigade and recalled becoming “very excited” each time she wore her uniform.

“I beloved going to the sports activities meet and gatherings like that. You get to carry a very first aid kit and be on stand-by. When waiting around, I would fake to do so a lot of points,” she explained with a chuckle.

After her O-Concentrations, she resolved it was time to switch her desire into truth but her father, who had been hoping for Mdm Chugani to join the spouse and children business, tore up her position software variety.

“Back in those times, if your father runs a business, you will function in the spouse and children retail outlet and then wait to get married.”

But the feisty elder baby of seven siblings did not give up. Noticing yet another newspaper ad contacting for nurses, youthful Mdm Chugani resolved to request the aid of her father’s most effective close friend, who supplied his dwelling tackle for her software variety.

This time round, Mdm Chugani scored the position at the Singapore Standard Clinic (SGH). Her father was furious.

“He explained: ‘You want to shame me … If I understood you would be so stubborn, I would have killed you,” she recalled. “Whatever my father explained, I stored peaceful simply because from youthful, we were advised not to chat back again to our father. But in my coronary heart, I understood what I desired to do.”

And even immediately after Mdm Chugani started off function, her father continue to had hopes that his eldest daughter would quickly give up owing to the hard mother nature of the position.

“At that time, my father had just been via a fistulotomy. The nurses had to shave his private sections and he assumed: ‘How can my daughter do that? Certainly, she will not be able to get it.’ So he assumed I’ll depart within just 3 months.”

Madam Chugani started off her nursing vocation at the Singapore Standard Clinic in the nineteen sixties.

But Mdm Chugani stayed on, drawing strength from self-aid e book “Think And Mature Rich” penned by American author Napoleon Hill in 1937.

“One thing I remembered was that after you make up your intellect, no one can quit you,” she explained.

Her very first stint was at the woman ward in SGH – a spot she continue to has fond reminiscences of. She remembered attending to a lot of lousy individuals who would be admitted into medical center in “filthy conditions”. Together with other nurses, Mdm Chugani would bathe and fabric them.

Smiling as she reminisced about the previous, she explained: “When I saw them all cleanse and at ease, I’d be so pleased. They were normally so appreciative and inclined to say thank you.”

That was in the nineteen sixties when nurses had to wash and sterilise glass syringes, as properly as write up affected person reviews by hand most of the time. This arrives on top rated of standard responsibilities such as using temperatures and dressing wounds.

It was tricky function but Mdm Chugani by no means regretted her conclusion to enter nursing. “I am normally pleased. Even if I have any worries, I will forget about them simply because when I’m function, it is just me and my affected person.”

This stays the situation when she was posted to IMH, then identified as the Woodbridge Clinic, in 1994. In advance of that, she had moved from SGH to other overall health establishments like the KK Women’s and Children’s Clinic, Tan Tock Seng Clinic, as properly as the Communicable Ailments Centre.

Not being aware of what to anticipate at the mental medical center, Mdm Chugani admitted that she felt “apprehensive” in the beginning so she turned to what she trustworthy the most – publications.

“I went to the library and started off reading through up. The additional I examine, the additional fascinating I come across the human intellect,” she explained.

“Do you know how significantly these individuals have to go via when they see points that are not there or listen to points that other men and women really don’t? If you know, you will learn how to value what ever you have and I advised myself that I have to aid these men and women to get properly.”

An avid reader, Madam Chugani drew strength from publications to conquer her father’s objections and allay initial fears about turning into a psychiatric nurse.. (Picture: Gaya Chandramohan)

About the previous two a long time of doing work in the a variety of wards at IMH, Mdm Chugani figured out how most effective to interact with individuals and has her have way to relaxed even the most agitated kinds.

“My individuals are wonderful men and women and they are not hard at all,” she explained gently, adding that she prefers to tackle her individuals by title. “If I really don’t know their names, I’ll connect with them brother or sister. When you build a rapport with them, they will respect you and will not harm you.

“I’ve been in this article so a lot of decades and not after have I been abused verbally or physically,” she emphasised.

Mdm Chugani also attempts to rationalise with her individuals. She remembered a affected person who became really upset immediately after becoming identified with schizophrenia immediately after his A-Concentrations. For months, Mdm Chugani tried out coaxing him to get medicine.

“I advised him: ‘You are superior than me. I only have O-Concentrations (but) I’ve labored really hard. You make up your intellect, adhere to the recommendations of the doctor and notify on your own that you are going to get superior.’”

Seven decades on, the affected person has because recovered and sends Mdm Chugani a thank-you card each Nurses’ Day and Xmas Day. “This offers me the satisfaction that I’m undertaking my position properly and tends to make me want to do additional,” she explained.

A thank-you card from Madam Chugani’s affected person.

“I’VE JUST BEEN Making an attempt TO BE A Excellent HUMAN BEING”

All over the program of her function, there were surely fewer-than-pleasurable times but Mdm Chugani explained she continually reminds herself how blessed she is to have found her enthusiasm so early in everyday living.

However, she is not oblivious to the challenges of psychiatric nursing and has achieved youthful health care personnel who have assumed of contacting it quits.

“But I notify them if I’m continue to in this article, why are you leaving?”

But she does not assume her conclusion to function in the mental medical center tends to make her a scarce breed. About the decades, she explained there have been additional endeavours to raise recognition for mental overall health and there are youthful nurses who opt for a vocation in psychiatric nursing.

“Last time when I advised men and women I was doing work at Woodbridge, they will stare at me and go ‘Huh?’ but I really don’t assume it is like that now.”

And it appears to be that Mdm Chugani’s ever-burning enthusiasm has not just been a morale booster for her individuals, but also for her youthful co-personnel.

Multi-talent treatment assistant Ong Hui Ting, who associates Mdm Chugani in workout programmes, explained there are periods when she feels discouraged. “But no make a difference how worn out she is and how worn out I am, she will normally be the a person indicating ‘Come on Hui Ting, let’s get this finished!’ It is an limitless positivity that she offers off.”

Pictures of Madam Chugani and her co-personnel at IMH. (Picture: Gaya Chandramohan)

For Mdm Chugani, her spouse and two small children have been her pillars of guidance. Even her father also came round to accepting her vocation selection.

“He was seriously pleased that I was a nurse when he acquired unwell. He was in SGH and he advised the doctor that his daughter is a nursing officer at KK,” she recalled.

“When I achieved the medical center, it was the very first in a lengthy time that he known as me ‘my child’. I normally felt that he doesn’t exhibit me as significantly really like as he does to my other siblings but from then on, (our partnership) acquired significantly superior,” Mdm Chugani explained, breaking out into a wide smile.

Even however her spouse has been egging her to retire, the energetic grandmother of 3 does not have programs to depart nursing for now.

“I want to have a reason in everyday living,” she explained.

The veteran nurse was given the Extraordinary Nurse Award at the IMH Nurses’ Day celebration very last calendar year and obtained the Ministry of Health’s Nurses Benefit Award in 2005.

But for her, regardless of the recognition she has obtained and the respect she will get from colleagues, she said she has basically been undertaking her position.

“A good deal of men and women forget about why we arrive to this earth. For me, I just want to be a fantastic human becoming and aid whoever I can.” 

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