Blood donation may be simple, but not everyone is suitable. Potential donors must first undergo a medical test to ensure their eligibility.
After donors have gone through the blood donation procedure, the donated blood is sent for screening, and then placed under carefully monitored and controlled conditions. When required, it will be delivered to sick and injured patients in Singapore.
Ms Rebekah Tan, 24, is part of a team that helps to keep this lifeline intact. As a staff nurse with the Blood Services Group of Health Sciences Authority (HSA), she leads a team of about 10 nurses and blood professional assistants at collection sites. Blood professional assistants help doctors and nurses in the blood collection operation.
She also performs phlebotomy procedures — the process of drawing blood from a person — and helps to make blood donation a pleasant experience for donors.
“Knowing that blood is essential to saving patients’ lives inspires me. It is also an honour to enable selfless donors who want to help others,” she says.
Making a difference
Ms Tan’s interest in pursuing a nursing career was inspired by a hospitalisation incident involving a loved one which left everyone in the family clueless about what to do, until the nurses came to the rescue with their offer of support, advice and clinical care.
Although that happened a few years ago, she could still recall the relief that her family felt and appreciate the impact the nurses made on that day. Since then, she hopes that she will be able to make a difference in other people’s lives too.
After graduating from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in nursing last August, she joined HSA’s Blood Services Group as a staff nurse.
The work, she admits, comes with its share of challenges.
“There are times when we need to turn away donors who are keen to donate blood because they do not meet the health requirements. In such instances, we have to practise empathy when explaining the situation to them,” she says.
Interested donors may be unable to donate temporarily as they do not meet the haemoglobin requirement, or because they have recently returned from a country with a risk of infections.
She adds that she also helps first-time donors to overcome their fear of needles and pain sometimes, by guiding them through the blood donation process.
Opportunities to grow
Facilitating blood drives, collecting blood and interacting with donors provide hands-on training in the workplace.
However, there are also myriad opportunities for HSA’s nursing staff to develop their skills through education and training programmes.
To date, Ms Tan has attended various courses on team-building, customer service, verbal communication and safety in the workplace.
“Through these programmes, I have learnt about the importance of teamwork, relating to colleagues and providing service with a smile. These life skills are not only useful in my nursing role, but also in my daily life,” she says.
For those interested in pursuing a nursing career, her advice is to adopt a strong service- oriented attitude and learn to stay composed in difficult situations.
“Nursing is more than a career — it is a calling. We have to be passionate about serving the nation, willing to work on weekends and be equipped to make calm and rational decisions even when work gets hectic,” she adds.