Emily Yap – ‘Patients are vulnerable – their voice is not strong’

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

This is the last in the series of spotlights on inspiring nurses from the Palliative Care – Celebrating Nurses Contributions report. You can read all the other stories on the ICPCN website.

Today, we focus on Emily Yap in Malaysia.

“Very Pain!” shouted Emily’s aunt with leukaemia. She suffered in pain with no analgesic. Suffering in pain was a terrible experience and had a hugely negative influence on her aunt’s physical and emotional well-being as well as the family.

At the time Emily was aged 19 and her ambition was to become “a lady with the lamp” like Florence Nightingale. She hoped that she could carry a lamp to bring hope and help to patients. She went into nursing and worked for five years in a hospital. In 2006 she moved to palliative care and joined Hospis Malaysia. She completed her Graduate Certificate in Health (Palliative Care), with Flinders University Australia 2011, and a Diploma of Palliative Care through Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN) in 2012. She says “Presenting at many local and regional conferences made me proud.” She realised the importance that teaching in palliative care could make to patient care, so she wanted to be a teacher. She joined the teaching faculty of the training-of-trainers programme in Palliative Care in Sri Lanka 2016 – 2017 as part of the Lien Collaborative Programme under APHN. In Hospis Malaysia, Emily provides clinical “bedside” teaching in the community to medical students, oncology nurses, family medicine and palliative care specialist trainees.

She is also a facilitator for the Palliative Care Nursing workshop. Emily explains “Patients are vulnerable. Their voice is not strong.” She sees her job as a palliative care nurse is to advocate for patients’ voices to be heard by healthcare professionals. Hospis Malaysia has given her training, education, professional ethics, and enabled her to work independently. She now feels competent enough to assess, and manage, multiple symptoms including physical, psychological, social and spiritual issues. Her aim is to improve patients’ quality of life. Her duty of care is understanding patients’ wishes, expectations and preferred outcomes, respecting their values, needs, beliefs, cultural background and their goals of care. Her priority is in acting in the best interest of the patient and her expertise is in treating the person with dignity, not just the disease.

Emily finds working with children with cancer challenging, in particular in exploring children’s understanding of their illness. Often, she uses art as a communication tool. She describes one child’s drawing of a monster, who said ‘leukaemia is a monster with long hands, I came to hospital to have chemo to kill this monster in my body.’

She is proud to be a Palliative Care Nurse and sees her journey of experiences as adding value and meaning in life and hopes that her story can inspire other nurses.

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