Empowering
Patients in
Their Last Days

As an Assistant Nurse Clinician with MWS Home Care & Home Hospice, Melissa Fong cares for clients ranging from those who are socially isolated to those who are frail and facing the end of life. In all her years in palliative care, she has had her fair share of deeply emotional encounters, difficult conversations about pain and death, and faith-affirming moments. 

“One of the most common questions that patients and their families ask is: ‘How long more do I have?’ Sometimes, the patient may not really want to know the answer. More often than not, the patient is acutely aware of his deteriorating health condition, and the truth can be hard to bear. In times like this, I may encourage the patient to ponder over his feelings and come to terms with the end of his life. At other times, a comforting presence or a reassuring pat is all that is needed,” shared Melissa.

“My family and church community have been great pillars of support whenever I encounter seasons of distress,” said Melissa.

Answering the Call

The calling to be a nurse came when Melissa joined St John Ambulance Brigade at her secondary school and had the opportunity to be attached to a hospital. “I remember shadowing nurses as they went about their ward duties, feeling very intrigued. So I resolved to join the healthcare sector one day… it didn’t matter what role it was!” laughed Melissa. Upon graduating from university, she did a two-and-a-half-year stint at a local hospital but felt she wanted more autonomy in her patients’ clinical care. Following a mission trip to Indonesia, she felt a prompting to go into home care and in 2014, joined MWS as a home hospice staff nurse.

Beyond attending to medical and nursing needs, Melissa often finds herself drawn into the sphere of patients’ private lives. “When I was caring for a patient who had been diagnosed with nose cancer, his initial complaints were about his excruciating pain and giddiness. Yet, he would always resist pain medications. As we continued building rapport with him, he began to open up and we realised he was holding on to a massive amount of guilt towards his family and his past. It soon became apparent that much of his physical pain and the caregiver’s stress stemmed from deep-rooted, unresolved issues within the family. As his condition was rapidly deteriorating, we had to race against time to help him and his caregiver reconcile. With the chaplain’s help, we managed to do so before he passed on peacefully and freely,” Melissa recounted. 

Over the years, she has learnt to cope with grief and the loss of patients. “My family and church community have been great pillars of support whenever I encounter seasons of distress,” said Melissa. Journaling has also been helpful as it forces her to be “utterly honest with myself and God”. 

A Glimpse of Patients' Inner World

Melissa revealed that what keeps her going is remembering the call to care for those in need, and her privileged position to do so because of her professional training. “To be able to journey with the patients and their caregivers, holding their hands when they feel lost and hopeless, right till the end… I’m glad to be given a glimpse of their world. Watching our chaplains minister to the patients’ spiritual needs and how some of them have experienced physical relief as a result has also helped me appreciate the many dimensions of life and what being human really means.”

Find out how you can empower lives at mws.sg or email volunteer@mws.sg.

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