Home voices My Learning Diaries: After working in tourism, I returned to school and followed my late mum’s footsteps as a nurse

My Learning Diaries: After working in tourism, I returned to school and followed my late mum’s footsteps as a nurse

My Learning Diaries: After working in tourism, I returned to school and followed my late mum’s footsteps as a nurse

The fast-changing nature of work has prompted many Singaporeans to upgrade their skills to stay relevant. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of young Singaporeans who have recently done so to give their careers a boost, or even pursue new paths in life.

In this instalment, Mr Hendra Roy Osland, 31, recounts his career move from tourism to nursing. The road was not easy, especially as his son was born just before his career conversion programme at NUS Nursing started. His mother, who had been a nurse herself, died of cancer months later.

Published July 2, 2023 Updated July 28, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

Switching careers can be daunting, but for me, nursing is a calling.

My late mother was, and still is, my biggest inspiration to pursue nursing. She was a nurse herself before I was born.

I had joined the tourism industry after graduating with a diploma in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Republic Polytechnic in 2013 as I enjoyed meeting and serving people in a hospitality setting.

But despite spending almost a decade in multiple roles from branding to guest services, I could never shake off the feeling that there had to be more in life.

In 2019, while I was the duty executive at Gardens by the Bay, I helped to resuscitate a guest who had collapsed. The experience sparked a desire to return to the healthcare industry — this time as a nurse.

A friend in my reservist unit introduced me to the Career Conversion Programme offered by Workforce Singapore and the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS Nursing).

After an intense interview process, I was thrilled to receive news that the National University Hospital had agreed to sponsor me for the programme in mid-2020.

This meant that my fees would be fully paid for, and I would get a monthly allowance during the two-year course, followed by a completion bonus. The conditions were that I meet the grade requirements and serve a three-year bond after graduation.

I began in August 2020. We studied a wide range of topics from anatomy, physiology, mental health, to leadership and management.

It took me a while to get re-accustomed to scientific modules such as anatomy and pharmacology as it had been nearly a decade since my diploma.

I also had a difficult time juggling work, study, and family — especially as my son was born a month before the programme started.

Plus, as I was in a fast-track course for mid-career professionals, we had clinical practice during our term breaks as well.

Dedicating time for rest and family was crucial to prevent burnout.

I would have back-to-back afternoon and morning shifts, which meant I would only see my son in the morning before the afternoon shift and again the next day after my morning shift.

In June 2021, while I was in the thick of my course. I received the call that my mum had died just as I was starting my shift at 7am.

She had fought a six-year battle with breast cancer which had spread to other organs.

I graduated in July 2022 and started work as a full-fledged nurse.

In hospitality, I managed hundreds of guests per day but my interactions with them typically lasted only a few minutes each and involved addressing their entertainment needs.

In nursing, I journey with most of my patients from admission to discharge, getting to care for them and their family holistically. The decisions I make as a nurse can be lifesaving.

There are days now when I work double shifts and am separated from my son for more than 24 hours.

During these shifts, I feel blessed to still be able to connect with home via a video call.

The strong support from my loved ones helped me cope with the stress of a mid-career switch.

My advice to anyone considering a career switch to nursing is to research the profession thoroughly. Talk to practising nurses and lecturers who can share their experiences.

There are indeed some stereotypical gender misconceptions about nursing being a female role.

For example, some older patients address nurses as “Missy”. For ease of communication, I tell them to call me “Missy” too when they need to get my attention.

This is rare, however, and it is comforting to see that people hardly bat an eyelid when they see a male nurse.

In fact, certain disciplines such as orthopaedic surgery, where I am in, welcome male nurses as they require people who can handle the physical demands of the role.

Nursing may not be an easy job, but it is a fulfilling career that offers many opportunities beyond traditional clinical or management routes.

You will be deeply involved in some of your patients’ most vulnerable moments, and contribute to making a difference in their lives.


Mr Hendra Roy Osland, 31, is a staff nurse in an orthopaedic surgery ward at the National University Hospital in Singapore. He graduated from NUS Nursing in July 2022 and was awarded the Mount Alvernia Hospital Prize in Nursing Excellence. He was also on the Dean’s List for his final semester in Academic Year 2021/22.