51-year-old pursues passion by studying nursing at ITE
The first question he gets from his classmates is always: "How old are you?"
For Mr Desmond Ng, 51, the decision to quit working and return to school to pursue his passion for nursing was not an impulsive one.
The full-time second-year student, who is doing a Nitec in nursing at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East, was inspired by how nurses took care of his late grandmother. She was in and out of the hospital for three years before she died early last year at 103.
Mr Ng, who is single, told The New Paper: "I was impressed by how professional they were when looking after my granny, even if it was a messy and smelly situation that even I found hard to handle - and I was very close to her.
"I could feel they truly cared for her, and that moved me to want to be like them."
Mr Ng, who has two older sisters, lives with his parents who are in their 80s. He was grateful for his family's support when he decided to enrol in ITE in January last year.
He said: "My sisters were happy that I wanted to do something meaningful, and my parents did not object as they would benefit from my nursing skills in the future."
This is not the first time Mr Ng has made a bold career switch. He was an operations manager at SkillsFuture Singapore before attending ITE and had 19 years of experience in administrative roles.
Prior to that, he was a pastry chef at Mandarin Oriental Hotel for nine years.
He said: "It takes courage to make the decision (to switch careers), but I want to challenge myself to new things. I take it as there is no turning back, so I have to give it my best."
Adapting to school has not been easy for Mr Ng, whose highest educational qualification is the N levels, so he told himself he has to put in "three times the effort" compared with his teenage peers.
"Initially, I was fearful because I had not studied anything related to biology and was afraid I could not cope or understand. But the teachers at ITE taught in such a well-structured way that as long as I put in effort, I could follow, and it really boosted my confidence."
His hard work paid off as he holds a perfect 4.0 grade point average entering his last semester.
Apart from in-class lessons, he has also completed six months of supervised clinical attachment - the practical part of the curriculum at ITE - at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Applying the skills he learnt in school to help patients has made him more determined to become a nurse.
He said: "Some would say, 'Thank you and see you outside,' which really makes me very happy, knowing that I have helped them recover."
Sponsored under the Professional Conversion Programme by SGH, Mr Ng will work there as a nurse after graduating in January. He looks forward to giving back to society soon and hopes this will be his last job before retirement.
"I want to be a nurse for 10, maybe 15 years. I want to do it for as long as I can."