Assoc Prof Soh Chai Rick
Assoc Prof Soh Chai Rick
Senior Consultant & Director, Surgical Intensive Care Unit; Hyperbaric & Diving Medicine Centre
Department of Anaesthesiology, SGH

 “To put it simply, the nurse is the person involved in most of the activities which determine the patient's well-being.”
Patient care has seen dramatic changes over the last few decades. Our modern healthcare system has adopted many of the practices first introduced with industrialisation, including the division of tasks and sub-specialisation.  Today, a typical tertiary hospital employs thousands of staff that span hundreds of distinct occupations.
However, one thing has yet to change. For the vast majority of patients, the profession they will encounter the most is the nurse.
In some ways, nurses possess the attributes of a heptathlete or a decathlete.  They have the strength to deal with the stress of facing suffering and death, flexibility to cope with the variable roles and working hours, attention to detail to minimise errors, stamina to last the long shifts, as well as speed to react to crises and emergencies.  Add compassion, respect, interpersonal skills, and we have the amazing package we call the nurse.
However, it wouldn't be completely accurate to compare nursing to a heptathlon and a decathlon.  For most times, nursing is a team sport and supporting one another is in the nursing genetic makeup.
Nurses form the bridge between the patient and the hospital system.  Through them, patients communicate their concerns and needs.  Through them, the healthcare team finds out how the patient is doing.
And through them, patients receive their sustenance and treatment.  To put it simply, the nurse is the person involved in most of the activities which determine the patient's well-being.
One of the notable trends in medicine is that despite our best attempts, it is often very difficult to demonstrate a measurable benefit of our interventions.  Yet, there is irrefutable evidence that patient outcomes are improving every year.  It is probable that these healthcare improvements come not from major breakthroughs but from doing the small things well. In this respect, nurses hold the key.
In a society where individualism often takes precedence over collective benefit, the nursing profession continues to carry the torch of betterment of our fellow human beings.  They put themselves in the line of danger, which may come from invisible pathogens, hazardous chemicals or angry patients and families.
As such, it is no surprise that together with firefighters and teachers, nurses occupy the positions of the highest regard in society.  No words could adequately describe the importance of what they do every day.
Thank you, and Happy Nurses' Day.