At 19, Ang Shih Yuh wanted to change the world. Today, the winner of this year's President's Award for Nurses, is living out that dream.
She has won the highest honour in Singapore for nursing, the President’s Award. But Deputy Director Ang Shin Yuh is making an impact way beyond nursing, as she sets about transforming healthcare.
Think Big, Communicate and Motivate, Move Fast. These appear to be the modus operandi of this change maker who has effectively led multi-professional teams and executed projects that yield exciting and impactful results.
The latest of such a project was the MyCare app on bedside tablets which is being piloted in SGH wards. It enables patients to access their daily care schedule, test results and education materials about their conditions. Patients can also engage their care team by posting queries. Together with a group of nurses, this was mooted by Shin Yuh as a means to empower patients to be more involved in their own care.
Beyond the app and tablet, this is part of a bigger Future Inpatient Journey transformation that Shin Yuh is co-leading in SGH.
Shin Yuh is used to working with experts from areas outside of healthcare. Such as gamers, to develop e-training module for nurses. Or lighting experts, to explore use of natural circadian lighting in our wards to aid healing. “In my MBA (Healthcare Management) training, I had to interact with people from different industries. I also learnt to sell ideas, to convince. In seeking out partnership, I always ask not just “What’s in it for SGH?” but “What’s in it for them?”
She opted for the MBA course which was new then, instead of going for a Master’s degree in Nursing when she was offered the Alice Lee scholarship in 2006. “I was then assisting to run a ward, and was curious about procurement, profit & loss etc. I just wanted to know how to do things better,” said Shin Yuh. And to make sure she did not lose her MBA learnings, she asked to be seconded to SingHealth Centre for Health Services Research. For two years, she immersed herself in health services research and health economics, and sharpened her writing and presentation skills.
The power of evidence
Leading the Nursing Team in Quality, Research and Transformation, Shin Yuh is a strong advocate of evidence-based nursing to improve care quality.
For every project, her team will do primary or secondary research to generate evidence before implementation. In this way, she gets agreement of the clinicians and the buy-in of colleagues who have to implement the changes.
This emphasis on data and evidence was ingrained in her, during her initial nursing training at King’s College, London.
To contribute to local nursing education, the mother of two active boys tutors part-time at Curtin University and Singapore Institute of Technology to share her knowledge and expertise.
A path less travelled
Shin Yuh gave up medical school to do nursing.
“I was looking for a scholarship, for practical reasons. It was a choice between paying for Medical School or Nursing on a scholarship. I’ve always wanted a ‘helping’ career, and it helped that King’s College in London was reputed to be the best Nursing school. It was also prestigious to go overseas.
“I was only 19, and believed I could change the world. But as soon as I boarded the plane, I cried, suddenly aware that I was all on my own. Taking the scholarship and going overseas forced me to grow up, and be brave. I worked hard, because failing would mean having to pay back the scholarship.
“The School emphasized research, and self-learning. Lecturers did not give out notes, only lists of reference materials. For our assignments, we had to find the literature, walk the ground, conduct interviews.
“When I came back and started work in SGH, I couldn’t function initially, because there was so much that were different. Even the equipment was called by different terms. It didn’t help that I was labelled “the scholar nurse” – there was no degree nursing course in the local universities then. I had to ask for help. I learned to be humble and make friends, and am grateful to have good mentors who offered to precept me back then.”
Growing up, her mum had a large influence on her. “My mum, who was a hawker, used to teach me that a stall owner must first learn to cook, and then to sell; so that you can step up even if your cook is not around. Her ‘hawker wisdom’ holds true even till today. In order to motivate, convince and lead, I know that I have to first demonstrate that it can be done.”
And from those humble beginnings and grounding in clinical work, Shin Yuh is fulfilling her dream - to be in a helping career and to change the world, by changing healthcare.
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