Dedicated to helping others

Jeyanthi Anandan drives four hours to and from work every day just to be with the patients she cares for.

Senior Staff Nurse Jeyanthi Anandan is so determined to do her job that she is willing to endure a four-hour commute each day. Jeyanthi, an ex-Malaysian, lives in Johor Bahru and to ensure that she is not late for work, the 39-year-old will get into her car before 5am and drive to Parkway Cancer Centre’s (PCC’s) clinic in Gleneagles Hospital.

Even then, it takes between one to two hours to get to work in the morning and she finally reaches the clinic sometime before 6am. “Monday mornings are terrible,” says Jeyanthi. The drive home is even worse though, because it takes between two to three hours to negotiate the traffic jam at the Causeway. Despite the long commute, she has no complaints because she finds fulfilment in her job.

Jeyanthi has been working at PCC since 2008 and today, her job consists of overseeing the clinic and helping patients who come for chemotherapy. However, the work involves more than just getting patients comfortable and plugged in. “My job is to talk to patients and to support them holistically,” she says. If patients say they need help with nutrition, she arranges for a dietitian to talk to them. If she notices that a patient looks depressed, she will get in touch with a counsellor to speak to him/her.

For new patients, she is a voice of reassurance. “I tell them: ‘You are not alone, we are here with you. We will support you to complete the chemo smoothly and we will manage the side effects together’.”

She also introduces patients who have a similar diagnosis to each other. These patients will usually be on the same medication and will experience similar side effects. “They can become each other’s support.”

Sometimes though, her job is simply to provide company. “Some patients like to chit-chat, they like to share about their life stories.”

Talking to patients and learning about their lives is one of the things she likes about her job. As a result, over time, the people she sees regularly become more than just patients. This, however, makes it hard if they do not do well. “When we look after the patients for a few months, we want them to be better,” she says. Losing a patient becomes very painful. “It’s like you’ve lost a friend, brother or sister. You feel the loss.”

However, as a nurse with 17 years of experience, she has developed coping mechanisms such as talking about the grief and pain she feels to her colleagues and her managers.

Jeyanthi’s nursing career began in 2001 after she graduated with a diploma in nursing from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Kelantan. She then worked in her hometown of Johor Bahru for a year and a half before joining the liver transplant ward/surgical ward in Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore. After getting an advanced diploma in oncology from Nanyang Polytechnic in 2007, she transferred to PCC.

She was always interested in working in healthcare, and as a young girl, her ambition was to be a doctor. However, because of her family’s commitment, she opted for a career in nursing instead. After her diploma, while working, she wanted to get a degree, which was how she ended up getting a job in Singapore in 2003.

Apart from the better pay, she was attracted to the opportunity of working in the city-state because she felt Singapore had better healthcare services. In addition, she never gave up on her hope of getting a degree, and she knew she could work and study for her degree at the same time if she worked in Singapore. Which is exactly what she did: While working at Gleneagles, she studied part-time and obtained a degree in nursing offered by Monash University’s Singapore campus in 2005.

She subsequently went on to get a master’s degree in nursing from La Trobe University some six years later. Today, armed with the same determination that enables her to shrug off her long daily commute, she has embarked on a PhD degree in nursing from the National University of Singapore.

A mother of two boys, aged six and 10, she relaxes by spending time with them after work and on weekends. From her life experiences, she has learned that while a career is important, time with family is also precious. “Some of my patients have told me – ‘We should spend more time with our family.’”

Partly because of that, she is taking a break from her PhD programme. “The advice I get from my patients is, ‘Do everything at the right time.’” Given her steely determination and her track record for self-improvement, her dream of becoming a doctor, of sorts, has a good chance of becoming a reality. At the right time, of course.

Written by Jimmy Yap



Tags: cancer nurse, experience with cancer patient