Eastern Health Alliance
Special Feature | Organisation

From Close Call
to Noble Calling

Eastern Health Alliance
The healthcare industry’s constant need for dedicated workers has allowed Staff Nurse Josiah Quak to channel his early tribulations into a professional niche.

It might be an unfortunate reality, but illness will always be part and parcel of life. As the regional health system for the residents of eastern Singapore, it is little wonder, then, that the Eastern Health Alliance (EHA) is constantly seeking to expand its pool of talented workers.

While the ability to hire good employees might be a luxury for most industries, it could quite literally spell the difference between life and death for the healthcare sector. To date, the unparalleled commitment of EHA’s staff has played a big part in allowing it to serve its patients without undue problems. Still, the ever-growing needs of the ill and indisposed means that the search for fresh talent is an ongoing imperative.

One individual who has answered this calling is staff nurse Josiah Quak, who is currently attached to Changi General Hospital (CGH) as a recipient of the CGH Scholarship. He tells us about how his childhood experiences have spurred him on to a career in healthcare, and reminds us that patient care involves more than just doctors.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in healthcare, and in particular Nursing?

Josiah Quak Song Heng: When I was younger, I was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma - a form of soft-tissue carcinoma. I survived thanks to the dedication of the healthcare team, which comprised of nurses, doctors, and other allied health professionals. Having been in remission for more than two decades, I feel compelled to pay it forward.

I was very intrigued by the teamwork within the multi-disciplinary team, as well as the patient-centric nature of nursing. Additionally, the opportunity to work as a critical care nurse in an intensive care unit seemed like an exhilarating experience which demands constant action and vigilance. These traits coupled with the constant evolution of medical procedures and always having to be in motion, greatly appealed to my desire for an exciting career path.

What drew you to the CGH Scholarship?

Josiah: Apart from the financial support, the CGH scholarship drew me in with its emphasis on teamwork, ownership, and professionalism - which are the central tenets of CGH’s core values. Apart from the work ethos, the emphasis on constant learning, academic and practical advancement, combined with considerable support from senior management further spurred me on to apply for the scholarship.

Share with us the roles and responsibilities you take on as a Staff Nurse.

Josiah: Simply put, my role entails providing the best possible care and delivery of therapy to my patients, and acting as their advocate within the multi-disciplinary team. As a critical care nurse, I am responsible for the monitoring and continuous assessment of my patients, in order to detect early clinical signs of deterioration and respond accordingly. Additionally, I am also tasked with assessing team decisions and suggesting alternative plans which may be better suited to the patients. Education of both patients and their family members also features prominently in my role as a nurse, to orientate them to a familiar environment, what to expect in a clinical setting, and what to expect during the course of treatment.

Josiah Quak Song Heng

Josiah Quak Song Heng
Healthcare Scholar

Staff Nurse
Changi General Hospital

"To see critically ill patients like these, regain their health is perhaps one of the biggest rewards of the job."

What is the most memorable event you have experienced during your career?

Josiah: There are many. One event, however, stands out from the rest. A patient in my unit was being transferred in from the Cardiac Cath Lab when he collapsed mid-transfer. Upon seeing this, the nurses and allied health professional around quickly administered resuscitation and cardiac intervention - successfully. Just a couple of days later, I saw the same patient walking around unassisted in the General Ward. To see critically ill patients like these, regain their health is perhaps one of the biggest rewards of the job.

What are some of the challenges you face at work? How do you overcome them?

Josiah: Did you know that CGH serves a community of 1.4 million people residing in the eastern part of Singapore? Sheer volume aside, one of the biggest ongoing challenge I face would be working with some patients and their relatives, who can be slightly overbearing at times.

I overcome this by reminding myself to keep calm and to seek the underlying reasons for the relatives’ agitation and help to alleviate it at its source. It is easy to forget that the patients and relatives are often placed in a very uncomfortable and unfamiliar position in the hospital, and a very common reason for their agitation is fear. Moreover, being a reliable point of resource for relatives can help to calm them in most situations.

Do you have any advice for those looking to follow in your footsteps?

Josiah: Be aware of what the scholarship entails, for example the bond period and academic requirements. Question your motives and inspiration for taking up the challenge of nursing, have a career plan and ask yourself where you want to be in five or ten years. Seeking a short attachment or internship can be a good way to see if the profession is right for you.

If you still find yourself compelled to travel down this road after weighing the pros and cons, I would love to welcome you aboard to what would be the greatest adventure of your life.