‘Nurses are unsung heroes’

Rosena (fifth left) cutting a cake at her farewell party.

PEOPLE often think nurses should be angelic and always smiling no matter what they are faced with in their work.

Ideally, yes, but the reality is that nurses — male or female — are human too, according to Rosena Abdul Ghani who has called it a day after four decades in the nursing profession.

“They are husbands or wives, parents with families and on top of these, have heavy responsibilities doing their job.

“They not only have to juggle family and work but also take the ups and downs. Like all jobs, there are good and bad days in the office. How well they cope depends on how well they handle a situation. It’s important to strike a balance,” she said.

Rosena said at times, these things do affect their work but from her experience, nurses have been trained to balance them out, and their multi-tasking skills also help prevent personal issues from interfering with their work.

“Nurses are actually unsung heroes. They have to put up with so much in their scope of work. They also need soft skills, or more precisely, emotional quotient (EQ), to deal with people and I must say though it’s part of the standard operation procedure, it’s almost impossible for such attributes to be measured with ordinary standards.”

Rosena is happy to note that society today has become more understanding of the work nurses are doing.

However, she pointed out that there are still challenges the Florence Nightingales have to face, listing the conveniences, offered by technology, especially the reliance on social media, as some of them.

“We have to deal with people choosing to put their complaints on social media instead of voicing them out to the staff and hospital management.

“A more direct approach would have been better but we have working diligently on it, settling the complaints on a case-by-case basis.”


Despite her family and career commitments, the mother of three still found time to advance her career by enrolling for different courses – midwifery (1980), operation theatre technqiue (1985), sterilisation technique (1990), ward management (1993) and basic counselling (1998).

In 2004, Rosena obtained a degree in Bachelor of Nursing Science (post graduate) in Monash University, Australia, and 10 years later, a Masters Degree in Science Nursing at Northumbria University, UK.

“Knowledge is power. I have been able to learn so much and practise what I have learnt. So I like to encourage other nurses to do the same.

“After gaining knowledge from abroad and returning to put it to good use, one can move forward and go far. Having a degree helps to advance one’s career in terms of promotion and better pay. I feel the best thing is still to share the knowledge with colleagues,” she said.

She noted that the salary of young nurses nowadays is much higher compared to that of past nurses holding the same position.

But she pointed out that since the workload had become heavier and the costs of living had tripled, it would not be fair to compare eras experiencing different economic situations.

Rosena after obtaining a degree in Bachelor of Nursing Science (post graduate) at Monash University, Australia in 2004.

Postings and transfers

Rosena was first posted to Limbang Hospital after completing Senior Cambridge at Sekolah Menengah Kerajaan Limbang in 1978.

During her career, she was transferred to different medical facilities such as Limbang Hospital, Marudi Hospital, Sri Aman Hospital and Miri Hospital before being promoted to Acting Director of Nursing in 2014.

She was appointed Assistant Director of Nursing in the Health Ministry, Putrajaya, in 2015 and was elected secretary of the Nursing Board Malaysia the same year.

In Oct 2016, she was appointed Director of Nursing, a post she held until her retirement in Nov this year.

She had also served as Nursing Superintendent of MRSC Miri Chapter from 1998 to 2009.

She said an important part of her four-decade long career was her short-posting experience to Mecca in the 80’s where she worked at Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department in a hospital in the desert.

“The people I dealt with were mostly pilgrims who came to perform Hijjrah. At the time, an outbreak of diseases like cholera and meningitis was seriously affecting the pilgrims, and my job was to help them and get care for them.

“It was a harsh environment. The experience was hard and an eye-opener. I learned from it the most — it made me appreciate what I have in my own country.”

Rosena (second left) with her colleagues during her posting to Sri Aman Hospital between 1990 and 1996.

Shortage of nurses

She said there is “actually a lot of catching up to do,” despite the Health Ministry having sent tens of thousands of nurses to every corner of the country, including Sarawak and Sabah.

“There are new government hospitals, sub-specialist clinics and 1Malaysia clinics that keep coming up. But the country is still lacking nurses to meet the demand.

“The lack of posting opportunities could be due to the slower economy.

“Many chose to work elsewhere. And Singapore is one of the countries that offers a lot of opportunities to Malaysian nurses.”

Rosena has bitter sweet memories of her career.

“There are, of course, touching moments as well and above all, the many great people I worked with.

“These people have been an important part of my life and career. They made me who I have become.”

Rosena hoped the nurses out there would  have the vision to safeguard the profession and bring it to greater heights.

“By all means, improve yourself first, then, sharpen your skills. Only then will you be able to provide better services to patients and be more communicative when dealing with people,” she said.

Staff nurses at Miri Hospital recently threw her a farewell dinner in appreciation of her contributions to the nursing profession in the country.

As a Sarawakian who made it to the top of her profession, Rosena serves as a fine example for the many aspiring nurses in the state to continue striving to advance  their career through the acquisition of knowledge  and sharing it with their fellow nurses.

Her dedication has earned her many kudos, including the Excellent Services (Perkhidmatan Cemerlang) Award from the State Ministry of Health, the Pingat Perkhidmatan Terpuji from the Head of State and the Pingat Perkhidmatan Setia from the Chief Minister.

Matrons and staff nurses of Miri Hospital recently threw Rosena (seated) a farewell dinner in appreciation of her contributions to nursing in the state and country.

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