As a young girl, one of eight siblings, she applied to become a nurse to lighten her parents’ financial load. After 40 years on the job, Mdm Maliga Riaki Chinniah, now a Senior Staff Nurse (Clinical), has no regrets and would do it all over again.

Working at the Cardiothoracic Surgery Intensive Care Unit, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), she said nursing suits her personality. She is naturally composed, caring, alert, a fervent time manager, and constantly looks for better ways of doing things. Over the years, her work has not only given her a lot of satisfaction but also won her an array of awards, including this year’s Outstanding Nurse Award.

An Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse since 1985 – first in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, then Singapore General Hospital and now NHCS – her confidence is apparent, but this has not always been the case. “When I first started, I was nervous when I encountered sudden changes in a patient’s condition without doctors around. Now, having been in the ICU for so long, issues like blood pressure falling have become everyday issues that we can manage with confidence,” she said.

Mdm Maliga was part of the team who cared for Singapore’s first heart transplant patient in 1990, and for many others since then.

During the course of her work, she also takes time to find out if the patients’ families are facing any difficulties, and when needed, refers them to a medical social worker. In fact, Mdm Maliga has been so engrossed in her job that she has not taken a single day of medical leave in the 23 years after her last maternity leave. This was despite wearing many hats – nurse, mother, housekeeper, children’s tutor and volunteer, just to name a few. A mother of three, Mdm Maliga managed without domestic help when her children were younger – by doing the night shift for many years and strictly managing her time during the day. She even volunteered in the hospital’s outreach efforts then, and is doing more of that, since her children are now grown up.