Outfield nightingaleNever too late to pursue your passion: In PIONEER's "From Desk to Field" series, find out why ME4 Nur Fadilah Bte Jubir, a former nurse and SAFVC volunteer, traded her scrubs for green fatigues!
// Story Teo Jing Ting
// Photos Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of ME4 Fadilah
She often tells people that she is the son her father never had, and counts Mulan as one of her favourite films. Since young, Military Expert (ME) 4 Fadilah had always been interested in becoming a soldier.
However, her passion for nursing and healthcare sent her on a different path at first – she became a staff nurse in Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) and worked in both the operating theatre and emergency department for five years.
When the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) opened its doors, she jumped at the opportunity to sign up for their first intake in March 2015.
Part of the SAFVC family
As an Auxiliary Security Trooper, then-SV2 Fadilah was deployed to assist in security operations at various events such as the SAF Day Parade in 2016. She also participated in the inaugural SAF and Home Team Volunteer Contingent during the National Day Parade in 2019.
When her five-year bond with NTFGH ended in 2020, she decided to pursue a career with the Army as a Senior Military Medical Expert (MME) in the SAF Medical Corps.
"I really enjoyed being in the military as I got to experience a strong sense of camaraderie, as well as learn about leadership," explained ME4 Fadilah, who is the second of four daughters.
"I also felt very strongly about National Service (NS) and wanted to contribute my relevant clinical skills and experience to the SAF. Joining the Army allowed me to continue my passion in nursing and fulfil my duty to my country."
With that, she promptly enlisted on 31 Mar 2020.
Her Basic Military Training (BMT), however, was not the usual. During the nation-wide circuit breaker measures last year, BMT was suspended and she had to attend basic soldiering lessons online at home. It was one of her toughest periods.
"I was torn between staying on (in the SAF) and going back to nursing, as all my friends (in nursing) were fighting COVID-19 while I was waiting for clearance to go back to BMTC (Basic Military Training Centre)," explained ME4 Fadilah.
She even asked others for advice on whether she should stay on, and was told that she would be able to contribute on a bigger capacity if she did.
"My role back in the hospital was one-to-one patient care, whereas being in the SAF would allow me to take on larger roles such as operations planning."
ME4 Fadilah added that seeing how the SAF contributed significantly to COVID-19 operations during the pandemic – from the setting up of accommodation and medical care facilities to administering healthcare – reaffirmed her decision.
Being the fit and sporty type, she had no problems keeping up with the physical training when she entered Officer Cadet School (OCS).
However, she had to take extra care when dealing with post-training recovery as she had a fear of injuring her back because of minor scoliosis in the past.
The 30-year-old recalled being overwhelmed and breaking down emotionally during a route march after an outfield exercise.
"I was wearing Full Battle Order, carrying the Matador and bashing through vegetation on uneven terrain. I was crying in the dark because it was very physically strenuous, and I was stressed out and worried about my back," said ME4 Fadilah, who was about a decade older than her fellow cadets.
What kept her going was a desire to be an example to them.
"I strongly believe in NS and I feel that it's important. If they see that this jie jie (Chinese for "big sister") can do it, they can't give up either."
Pushing past her comfort zone
As a trainee in the Emergency Medical Specialist Course from January to May 2021, ME4 Fadilah learnt about leadership skills, training medics, as well as planning and coordinating logistics and operations.
This was a welcome change from her previous role at NTFGH, which largely focused on patient care.
Being an SAF nursing officer also challenges her to think out of the box, especially in the face of unpredictable situations.
"As an army nurse, you never know what to expect in the field. Compared to being in a hospital environment, you might not have certain apparatus in hand and have to make do with other things," said ME4 Fadilah.
This is the reason why the Saint Andrew's Junior College alumna wants to hone her leadership and planning skills.
"Unlike public hospitals where each role is clearly defined in their scope of work, a senior MME needs to be adaptable and resilient to overcome unforeseen challenges to carry out and lead complex missions (out in the field)."
Pursuing the dream
After graduating from the Emergency Medical Specialist Course in May 2021, ME4 Fadilah attended the Medical Officer Cadet Course from July to October before taking up her appointment as a Platoon Commander (PC) in the Medical Response Force.
Besides pouring all her energy into training, she is taking the opportunity to see things from a fresh perspective, especially from fellow trainees who do not have a nursing degree.
"We all bring different skillsets to the table, so it's a great chance to learn from one another."
Upon graduating as a senior MME on 12 Jan, she will be posted to the Medical Response Force as a PC and take charge of planning and managing the training of Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) medics.
"My experience will give them a deeper knowledge of medic skills which will help them in the field," said ME4 Fadilah, who has a nursing degree from the National University of Singapore.
As much as she is excited about her future, ME4 Fadilah is taking things one step at a time. "I'm someone who tends to get overly enthusiastic so I'm learning to manage my expectations by taking things slow.
"I'm where I want to be and I want to be able to enjoy what I do here."