Extraordinary Folks: The seventy two-year-previous nurse who ‘just wishes to be a great human being’

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SINGAPORE: With her limited hair, black semi-rimless eyeglasses and petite body, Madam Susheela K Chugani cuts a common figure at the Institute of Psychological Well being (IMH).

Just after all, the girl that numerous contact Sister Susheela has put in the past 23 several years tending to the demands of clients at the medical center.

Regardless of getting very well past her retirement age, the seventy two-year-previous, who has been in nursing for additional than 50 several years, proceeds to do the job comprehensive time at the lengthy-remain psychogeriatric ward in IMH.

Age, according to Mdm Chugani, is not a restricting element when it arrives to caring for clients. For one particular of her dementia clients who has mobility problems, Mdm Chugani will keep her shoulders as she tries to wander all through therapy periods.

“The 1st time I did it, my affected individual questioned: ‘You so previous you, however want to keep me?’ and I replied: ‘Yes, let us go. If I can, you can do it far too.’”

For a different affected individual who refused to put on apparel and would rest naked in his individual urine, Mdm Chugani insisted on bathing and garments him every single day. She would also handle him to his favourite you char kway (fried dough fritters) as she qualified him to put on apparel and use the rest room.

Inside of months, the affected individual started to show signals of improvement and would say “Good morning” to Mdm Chugani when she arrives at the ward.

“I commit a ton of time conversing to them and I make positive I explain to them every single day that getting unwell is not the close of the environment,” mentioned the senior workers nurse. “I explain to them to make up their intellect that they are heading to get very well and wander out of the medical center. There is constantly hope.”


Staying a nurse was an ambition that Mdm Chugani had for as lengthy as she could keep in mind. Whilst researching at the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School, she joined the St John Ambulance Brigade and recalled getting “very excited” every single time she wore her uniform.

“I cherished heading to the sporting activities meet and events like that. You get to carry a 1st support kit and be on stand-by. Whilst ready, I would faux to do so numerous issues,” she mentioned with a chuckle.

Just after her O-Degrees, she determined it was time to flip her desire into truth but her father, who had been hoping for Mdm Chugani to be part of the family members small business, tore up her position application kind.

“Back in those days, if your father operates a small business, you will do the job in the family members keep and then wait around to get married.”

But the feisty elder little one of seven siblings did not give up. Noticing a different newspaper advertisement calling for nurses, youthful Mdm Chugani determined to request the help of her father’s best pal, who available his residence tackle for her application kind.

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

“He mentioned: ‘You want to disgrace me … If I understood you’d be so stubborn, I would have killed you,” she recalled. “Whatever my father mentioned, I saved silent due to the fact from youthful, we have been told not to converse back again to our father. But in my heart, I understood what I preferred to do.”

And even after Mdm Chugani began do the job, her father however had hopes that his eldest daughter would soon give up due to the hard mother nature of the position.

“At that time, my father had just been as a result of a fistulotomy. The nurses had to shave his personal pieces and he assumed: ‘How can my daughter do that? Definitely, she will not be in a position to consider it.’ So he assumed I’ll leave within a few months.”

Madam Chugani began her nursing occupation at the Singapore Standard Healthcare facility in the 1960s.

But Mdm Chugani stayed on, drawing toughness from self-help reserve “Think And Grow Rich” written by American creator Napoleon Hill in 1937.

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

Her 1st stint was at the feminine ward in SGH – a area she however has fond memories of. She remembered attending to numerous weak clients who would be admitted into medical center in “filthy conditions”. With each other with other nurses, Mdm Chugani would bathe and fabric them.

Smiling as she reminisced about the past, she mentioned: “When I saw them all thoroughly clean and snug, I’d be so happy. They have been constantly so appreciative and keen to say thank you.”

That was in the 1960s when nurses had to clean and sterilise glass syringes, as very well as produce up affected individual experiences by hand most of the time. This arrives on major of fundamental duties this sort of as getting temperatures and dressing wounds.

It was tricky do the job but Mdm Chugani under no circumstances regretted her selection to enter nursing. “I am constantly happy. Even if I have any worries, I will forget about them due to the fact when I’m do the job, it’s just me and my affected individual.”

This stays the case when she was posted to IMH, then recognized as the Woodbridge Healthcare facility, in 1994. Before that, she had moved from SGH to other well being institutions like the KK Women’s and Children’s Healthcare facility, Tan Tock Seng Healthcare facility, as very well as the Communicable Ailments Centre.

Not figuring out what to count on at the mental medical center, Mdm Chugani admitted that she felt “apprehensive” to begin with so she turned to what she reliable the most – textbooks.

“I went to the library and began studying up. The additional I browse, the additional appealing I find the human intellect,” she mentioned.

“Do you know how a lot these clients have to go as a result of when they see issues that are not there or hear issues that other persons really don’t? If you know, you will find out how to respect whatsoever you have and I told myself that I ought to help these persons to get very well.”

An avid reader, Madam Chugani drew toughness from textbooks to get over her father’s objections and allay preliminary fears about getting a psychiatric nurse.. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

Around the past two a long time of doing the job in the many wards at IMH, Mdm Chugani figured out how best to interact with clients and has her individual way to calm even the most agitated ones.

“My clients are wonderful persons and they are not difficult at all,” she mentioned carefully, incorporating that she prefers to tackle her clients by name. “If I really don’t know their names, I’ll contact them brother or sister. After you establish a rapport with them, they will regard you and will not harm you.

“I’ve been here so numerous several years and not after have I been abused verbally or physically,” she emphasised.

Mdm Chugani also attempts to rationalise with her clients. She remembered a affected individual who grew to become extremely upset after getting diagnosed with schizophrenia after his A-Degrees. For months, Mdm Chugani tried coaxing him to consider medicine.

“I told him: ‘You are greater than me. I only have O-Degrees (but) I have labored really hard. You make up your intellect, abide by the instructions of the medical professional and explain to on your own that you are heading to get greater.’”

7 several years on, the affected individual has given that recovered and sends Mdm Chugani a thank-you card every single Nurses’ Day and Christmas Day. “This offers me the gratification that I am doing my position very well and tends to make me want to do additional,” she mentioned.

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


All through the course of her do the job, there have been unquestionably less-than-pleasurable days but Mdm Chugani mentioned she consistently reminds herself how blessed she is to have observed her enthusiasm so early in existence.

Even so, she is not oblivious to the difficulties of psychiatric nursing and has achieved younger health care workers who have assumed of calling it quits.

“But I explain to them if I’m however here, why are you leaving?”

But she does not feel her selection to do the job in the mental medical center tends to make her a scarce breed. Around the several years, she mentioned there have been additional attempts to raise consciousness for mental well being and there are younger nurses who opt for a occupation in psychiatric nursing.

“Last time when I told persons I was doing the job at Woodbridge, they will stare at me and go ‘Huh?’ but I really don’t feel it’s like that now.”

And it appears that Mdm Chugani’s ever-burning enthusiasm has not just been a morale booster for her clients, but also for her younger co-workers.

Multi-ability therapy assistant Ong Hui Ting, who associates Mdm Chugani in exercise programmes, mentioned there are situations when she feels discouraged. “But no make any difference how tired she is and how tired I am, she will constantly be the one particular declaring ‘Come on Hui Ting, let us get this carried out!’ It is an limitless positivity that she offers off.”

Photographs of Madam Chugani and her co-workers at IMH. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

For Mdm Chugani, her partner and two youngsters have been her pillars of assist. Even her father also arrived round to accepting her occupation preference.

“He was really happy that I was a nurse when he bought ill. He was in SGH and he told the medical professional that his daughter is a nursing officer at KK,” she recalled.

“When I attained the medical center, it was the 1st in a lengthy time that he named me ‘my child’. I constantly felt that he doesn’t show me as a lot like as he does to my other siblings but from then on, (our marriage) bought a lot greater,” Mdm Chugani mentioned, breaking out into a huge smile.

Even however her partner has been egging her to retire, the energetic grandmother of a few does not have plans to leave nursing for now.

“I want to have a objective in existence,” she mentioned.

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

But for her, regardless of the recognition she has acquired and the regard she will get from colleagues, she said she has only been doing her position.

“A ton of persons forget about why we arrive to this environment. For me, I just want to be a great human getting and help whoever I can.” 

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