With close to 60 years of healthcare experience between them, the recipients of the Nurses’ Merit Award 2023, Nurse Clinician (NC) Zubaidah Binte Hassan, Nursing Informatics, and Assistant Nurse Clinician (ANC) Loi Mee Yong, Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU), have come a long way since the early days of their nursing career. 

We get to know more about our winners who have shown not only exceptional performance in their areas of expertise but also gave their best to continuously raise the standards of nursing.

The IT Advocate: NC Zubaidah Binte Hassan

Zubaidah joined NHCS in 2004 and spent a decade in the ward caring for patients. During that period, she was a member of the Nursing Informatics and Innovation Council. With a keen interest in IT, she later joined the Nursing Informatics (NI) in 2014 together with Assistant Director (AD) Jonathan Sim, who now leads the team. 

Sharing what influenced her to join NI, Zubaidah said, “I have been interested in IT since the time I was pursuing my diploma. This passion was further ignited by my brother who always shared his knowledge and experience from working in the IT industry.”

A cross-training opportunity with the NI team in SGH allowed her to gain useful experience in providing clinical support and conducting IT trainings for nurses. “As NI staff, it is essential to see the perspectives from both the end user and IT development, so as to be better advocates for the nurses and support them in using IT systems to enhance patient care.” To deepen her skills and knowledge, Zubaidah attended various trainings and courses, including the Graduate Certificate in Healthcare & Innovation, which she gained greater insights in healthcare innovation and in guiding users in the implementation of healthcare projects.

(L-R) NC Zubaidah with AD Jonathan, featured in CardioConnect in 2016, where they shared how NI optimised the use of the then-newly launched Infopedia platform; Zubaidah at a Health Manpower Development Programme (HMDP) in USA in 2015 to learn more about NI processes.

On one of her greatest challenges so far, Zubaidah shared it was the shift to paperless medical records in 2017. “The diverse nursing staff meant there were gaps in the level of IT knowledge and understanding of the migration process. To facilitate the smooth transition from hardcopy to electronic records, we (NI) held several hands-on training sessions, rendered support, and shared our knowledge with colleagues to ensure a smooth rollout for our nursing departments.” AD Jonathan shared that Zubaidah applied invaluable knowledge gained during her HMDP to the migration project, contributing to its success.

Indeed, Zubaidah has been at the forefront of various clinical IT projects, such as being part of the nursing team in tackling the digitalisation of electrocardiogram (ECG) at NHCS in 2020 where a key part of her role involved harmonising the process of NHCS’ ECG workflow to the cluster. She also actively contributed to the implementation of the Nursing Software Suite (NURSS), a bedside tablet app which enhances patient communication and education in the ward. The NURSS won the You Shine Award 2019 and is currently being rolled out to other areas.

“NI is completely different from clinical nursing. Instead of patients, we face numerous IT systems and end users. To do our job well, NI nurses need to stay rooted to our clinical nursing experience and continuously keep ourselves updated with clinical advancements. This helps us to be good advocates for nurses and patients,” enthused Zubaidah.

The ICU Veteran: ANC Loi Mee Yong

When Mee Yong completed her ‘O’ levels, her aunt made a suggestion that had ultimately shaped her life’s course. “She told me to apply to the school of nursing…so I did!” recounts Mee Yong. After three years, she graduated and before long, discovered her passion in intensive care. 

Before NHCS was established, the intensive care ward at SGH, known as Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) comprised cardiac and non-cardiac patients. “I was posted to MICU after being in a general ward for a few years. At MICU, I attended to patients with a wide range of conditions such as cardiac, respiratory and cancer, or those who came in after collapsing at the A&E – the work was not easy!” It was that experience that motived Mee Yong to pursue the field of intensive care.
When an opportunity arose to take up the Critical Care Nursing Course, Mee Yong went for it. Shortly after graduating, CTICU was formed. She shared that in the early days when NHCS was still seeing paediatric cardiac patients, Mee Yong had to care for critically ill infants with heart conditions. “Caring for babies was so different as their bodies are so much smaller and the care devices used were not the usual ones as in adults. It was heart wrenching to see the babies cry and not knowing if they were in pain or simply hungry.” Despite the difficulties, Mee Yong finds it extremely fulfilling caring for cardiac patients to this day. “Every day is different – at times, it is uneventful, while on some days, there could be a few patients requiring closer monitoring than usual or even urgent treatments.” 

(L-R) Mee Yong at her attachment to Papworth Hospital, United Kingdom to upgrade her knowledge in the field of Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension; Receiving her 40-year long service award in 2023 from then-CEO, Prof Terrance Chua. 

Looking back to one of her most memorable moments, Mee Yong shared that it was when she was awarded the HMDP to undergo training in Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH) at Papworth Hospital, United Kingdom in 2016. Upon her return, she conducted on-the-job training for staff and improved work processes on post-operative care for CTEPH patients.  

Her years of valuable nursing experience has made Mee Yong one of the most trusted and looked upon nurses in the ward. Her supervisor, Senior Nurse Manager Yeoh Lee Shien shared, “Mee Yong can recognise and respond to even small changes in patient’s conditions and activate early intervention with the surgeons and care team. This has helped to greatly enhance patient care at CTICU.” 

Mee Yong demonstrates the same level of care with patients’ caregivers by communicating in layman terms so that they can better understand the patient’s condition. With her colleagues, Mee Yong is generous with imparting her skills and knowledge, often going the extra mile to stay on after duty to support junior staff in managing emergency situations or simply to lend a listening ear. It is little wonder she has received numerous compliments from patients and staff, earning her several service accolades.

When asked how she stays motivated in her four-decade long career, she shares, “When I am able to use the skills I have learned to help a very sick patient regain his health…it brings me great fulfillment and reignites my passion in nursing.” For nurses who are considering a career in intensive care, Mee Yong has this to say - Nursing never gets easier, you just get stronger. Difficult situations will make you grow and become resilient. 

Congratulations to both nurses once again for your inspiring dedication and professionalism to patients and fellow colleagues. You make NHCS proud!