FIREMAN, pilot, policeman, doctor, rock star, teacher... those are some of the jobs we want to do when we are little kids. Not for Rahjee Chalson when she was four. She wanted to be a nurse. And fortunately, unlike many of the professions young children dream about, it worked out for her.
Now 56, Madam Rahjee Chalson is a Senior Staff Nurse at Outram Polyclinic, with 36 years of nursing under her belt.
She can still recall what drew her to nursing over five decades ago. “My mother used to take me to the outpatient clinic in Kallang when I was young and had a runny nose or flu. As a frightened child at the clinic, I would admire nurses in their smart uniforms and shoes that made ‘click-clock’ sounds,” said Madam Rahjee.
“Growing up, my mother also told me that nursing is a profession that allows you to go the extra mile,” she added. Today, Madam Rahjee’s typical work day reflects that bit of advice. Not only does she attend to patients, she counsels and teaches them how to manage their various chronic illnesses. And she’s enjoying every minute of it.
Madam Rahjee has been a nurse since 1980, starting her career with Singapore General Hospital (SGH), then moving on to work as a locum (part-time) nurse at various private hospitals when her three children were very young. She returned to nursing full-time when her youngest child, a girl, entered primary school, and joined SingHealth in 2003.
These days, she advises patients on the management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. Her patients visit the polyclinic every few months for regular health checkups, and some of them have become her friends.
Madam Rahjee finds satisfaction when she’s able to empathise with and help her patients: “At times, patients can be angry or upset as they have waited very long to see the doctor. Perhaps, they are worried about their loved ones. But once you are able to connect with them, it becomes easier.”
She remembered a recent encounter with a female patient who was under a lot of stress. The lady’s 37-year-old son, who was caring for his young children aged 12 and 1½, was struggling with diabetes and hypertension, and had suffered a stroke. Madam Rahjee said: “I wanted to help my patient and her son get better, and steer them in the right direction.”
Having taken up a Patient Navigator course at SGH in 2015, Madam Rahjee felt challenged to better meet her patients’ needs. She recommended her patient’s son for a multidisciplinary team discussion at Outram Polyclinic, where a team of doctors discussed his health and psychosocial issues.
She followed up with the patient and her son closely on their progress. In addition, she encouraged her patient’s son to take responsibility for his health in order to prevent complications from his chronic illnesses.
Her efforts as a Patient Navigator have paid off positively. Last month, Madam Rahjee met her patient’s son. His blood sugar levels had improved tremendously. In addition, her patient is no longer depressed.
“Last week, the patient visited the polyclinic and thanked me for helping her. I am so happy!” Madam Rahjee shared.
When she’s not working, Madam Rahjee reads voraciously. “Recently, my daughter downloaded an app that allows me to read e-books on my phone. So when I travel on the MRT, I read non-fiction books, like motivational books. That way, I can keep becoming a better person,” she said.
The active senior also enjoys going on long walks and cooking for her family. “My family makes a conscious effort to eat healthy. My children even tell me what is good for me. For example, my daughter says I cannot eat fried or fast food. My children don’t eat it too!” she said with a laugh.
In fact, Madam Rahjee is a good example of successful ageing. As she put it: “Our country has an ageing population and a shrinking birth rate. So, we must be healthy – eat healthily and exercise. Me too, I need to exercise! And learning too – there’s no stopping it, the sky is the limit. We can learn at any age.”
To budding nurses, Madam Rahjee has this to say: “Nursing may be demanding, but it is a very satisfying career. We are also given many opportunities to upgrade ourselves as nurses.”
As for herself, nursing is a passion that continues to burn strong within her.
Said Madam Rahjee: “I cannot imagine being in any profession besides nursing. My job as a nurse… it gives me great satisfaction.”
This story is part of an 'Everyday Heroes' series. To read our previous story featuring Senior Nurse Manager Chia Swee Khim, who works at Changi General Hospital, Click here