We celebrate nurses who are united in their mission to break down barriers and provide better care for patients and support their colleagues. From picking up a new language to helping colleagues adjust to our multicultural landscape, at the heart of it all is the passion to help others and make a difference.
Bringing kids to work
For more than two years, the pandemic has kept foreign healthcare workers away from their loved ones back home. Thanks to the 'Bring Kids to Workplace' initiative by SingHealth Community Hospitals (SCH), the children of staff from India, the Philippines and Malaysia could catch a glimpse of their parents at work.
The initiative, which was launched on 21 December 2018, provides an opportunity for children of SCH staff to follow their parents to work for a day to understand their roles and bond through the experience. In June 2021, the initiative went online and was extended to the families of staff who are overseas for the first time. It featured live interactive sessions and videos for children aged five to 12.
Healthcare workers comprising nurses, doctors and allied health professionals from SCH were roped in to produce short videos showing their typical work day. In less than a month, the seven-member nursing team created entertaining videos that were not only informative, but also featured choreographed song and dance routines! These motivated the children to pay close attention for the chance to win prizes during the pop quiz.
Eileen Soliman, Staff Nurse, Sengkang Community Hospital, who is from the Philippines, recounted how the team had to consider the attention span of the children when planning the line-up as well as match the scenes they need to shoot with the ward schedules. She also recalled how some of the older kids were sharp enough to notice that she was presenting in one frame and acting as a patient in another.
"They were excited to see what their mummies and daddies do, and interact with children from other countries," said Eileen, who hoped that the videos would inspire the little ones to become healthcare workers, too.
Her mentor, Adeline Tanhueco, Senior Staff Nurse, Outram Community Hospital, also from the Philippines, added that making the videos was great for de-stressing and the team bonded over the experience. She enjoyed her role of editing one of the videos, which featured the ABCs of taking precautions against COVID-19, and would happily participate again.
Her keen observation helps save lives
As a Senior Enrolled Nurse at the Geriatric Special Care Dentistry Clinic in National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS), Ramah Prabah D/O Ramasamy is always on the lookout for patients who may need help. It is an important part of her job, as some of the elderly patients may be non-verbal due to stroke, disability or other medical conditions.
One lunch break, Ramah noticed a patient choking. The patient, who was waiting to go home after his procedure, had accidentally swallowed his gauze and was unable to talk. She performed the Heimlich manoeuvre and thoroughly checked his vital signs before he was assessed to be fit to go home.
"It is what I am taught to do. I am always ready for action," she said, adding that she puts into practice everything she has learnt in her nursing career.
Ramah is conversant in Malay, Hokkien and basic Mandarin. For her, being able to communicate with her patients helps her do her job better. It puts patients at ease, and makes it asier for her to perform the necessary rocedures while reassuring them very step of the way.
In one case, it even helped her save a life. She was chatting with a patient who was looking pale and sweaty, and she suspected that he had low blood sugar. With the help of her colleagues who got him a sweet drink, she was able to save him from slipping into a diabetic coma. For her quick action, she received the Target Zero Harm Award in 2021.
Working with geriatric patients often means encountering caregivers who may feel burned out. As she also helps look after her elderly father, Ramah is able to empathise. In a gentle way, she will take over from the caregivers for the short time they are in the clinic and tell them to take a rest. It may be a small gesture, but it offers some respite to the caregivers, which really makes their day.
His smile represents his heart
Enrolled Nurse Romeo Jay Binoya Awayan begins each day with a smile. Whether he is helping to shower a patient, bringing them meals or taking their vital signs, he always makes it a point to stay cheerful.
"I am happy when I make others feel happy," he said, though he admitted that it is not always easy, especially during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Romeo came to Singapore to seek better prospects in 2019. Prior to this, he was a nurse for three years in the Philippines. It was challenging at first to catch the nuances of Singlish and different dialects as well as master the different uses of equipment. But he persevered, as he promised himself to be better at taking care of the sick. He never wanted to feel as helpless as he did when he was young and did not know what to do when his mother had a stroke.
Romeo took Mandarin lessons so that he can communicate better with patients and colleagues. Now, he is proficient in basic conversational Mandarin and can confidently sing the famous Chinese song, 'The Moon Represents My Heart'.
Romeo enjoys surprising patients by speaking Mandarin. He delights in seeing their smiles but more than that, he finds that it helps him carry out his duties better.
"Some patients get angry if you don't explain what you are doing, so if I can communicate, it helps a lot," he explained.
He also took the initiative to put basic information, such as the day, month and year and hospital name, on a board in English and Mandarin to help orientate patients with dementia of their surroundings.
While he tries to stay upbeat at all times, there are times when he misses his wife and two children back home in the Philippines. Fortunately, he was able to return for a visit in February to spend time with his newborn baby girl.
To read more stories of how SingHealth nurses are breaking down language and cultural barriers to come together to provide better care for patients and support their colleagues, download the latest issue of the Singapore Health Special Nursing Supplement 2022.