Nurses play vital roles in our healthcare system. They are skilled caregivers and knowledgeable educators. In the fight against the pandemic, nurses’ diverse knowledge and skills enable them to adapt quickly to fast changing manpower and process needs, keeping our patients, colleagues and community safe.

The MOH Nurses’ Merit Award honours nurses who have demonstrated outstanding performance, participated in professional development, and have made contributions to promote the nursing profession. Our 2021 recipients - Nurse Manager Ann Chan from Cardiac Clinics and Nurse Clinician Norashikin Binte Sarip from Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU), are two of such nurses who exemplify the spirit of nursing.

We discovered that both of them would have become teachers if they had not joined nursing! Let us hear what inspired them to join Nursing and their experience in the last one year.

What would you like to be if you were not in nursing?

Sister Ann: I love children so yes, I believe I may have become a pre-school teacher!

Sister Norashikin: I might have ended up being a teacher like my Dad. The contradicting part is that my strength is not in teaching. However, in nursing, we are required to teach so I am constantly trying to hone my weakest trait.

What made you choose a career in nursing then?

Sister Ann: I grew up with my grandparents and loved the interaction with them. That led to my desire to work with the elderly. When I completed my secondary school education, I specifically looked for a part-time job at nursing home. Then, I was told by one of the homes that I had to be qualified as a nurse in order to work there. That drove my determination to be a nurse.

Sister Norashikin: I chose nursing as soon as I got my GCE ‘O’ Level results. Although none of my family members were in the healthcare industry, I was curious of the profession and thought of just giving it a try. What began as curiosity ended being a calling.

What led you to your current role?

Sister Ann: I started my career in the ward. Shortly, I gave birth to my son. He was a fast learner and starting walking at ten months. Whenever I had to leave for shift work during the day, he would often run after me to the door and stomp his feet in anger for leaving him behind! When I come home from the afternoon shifts, he would usually be asleep. In order to spend more time with him, I made a tough decision to switch to the clinic environment which had more regular working hours.

Sister Norashikin: After completing my Advanced Diploma in Critical Care in Nursing, I was transferred from Ward 56 to CTICU. Subsequently, when we moved to the current building, I had the opportunity to assist in the set-up of Post-Anaesthesia Care Unit (PACU). Since then, I have been working in CTICU, PACU and OT Recovery where the needs and acuity of each department is different. I have always found immense satisfaction in taking care of the patients in CTICU especially when seeing them recover and finally going home.

(L-R) Sister Ann prepping the Covid-19 vaccine prior to administration; Sister Norashikin ensures there is always sufficient PPE stock for nurses.
How have you been involved in Covid-19 operations?

Sister Ann: When we started vaccination efforts at NHCS, I helped manage the vaccination exercise for our nursing and administration staff together with the rest of the vaccination operations team.

Sister Norashikin: I assist in ensuring sufficient inventory for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) items and temperature taking compliance.

How have you coped with the stress from tackling the demands of the pandemic?

Sister Ann: I relax by listening to music on my way home, letting the soothing music erase the rigors of the day. In the evenings, I enjoy spending time with my family and doing yoga. My boisterous children keep me grounded through dealing with their pre-teen problems! I believe a combination of me-time and connectedness with my family provides a solid base to calibrate myself from the current demands.

Sister Norashikin: It is indeed stressful for all of us during this period. On my days off from work, if I am not studying, I take the time to immerse myself in nature walks and gardening. I also take the chance to spend quality time with my Mum.

What keeps you going in nursing profession and up-keeping the standards of the profession?

Sister Ann: I reflect at the end of each day – pondering how the day went by, the challenges faced and how I overcame them, and what areas I can do better. This constant self-evaluation helps me in striving to do better. My husband told me this once, “It doesn’t matter that the color scheme of your uniform changes every few years, what matters is when you put it on, you are wearing the responsibility and bearing the professionalism expected of a nurse”.

Sister Norashikin: I always treat my patients like how I will treat my own family members - with respect and a listening ear. Even though there bound to be difficult patients, I feel that it is important to explain why we do things in a certain way so as to ensure their safety. It is also important to build rapport with them and their family members, and show empathy; putting ourselves in their shoes.

The theme of SingHealth’s Nurses’ Day 2021 is ‘21st Century Nurse’ – What do you think nurses these days can do to become one?

Sister Ann: This theme is apt and reflects so much of what surrounds us and supports our work. Being a 21st century nurse, I am glad that there are diverse and ample training opportunities to equip ourselves with the necessary skills and knowledge in staying up to date to meet evolving healthcare needs. I encourage all nurses to embrace these opportunities as there are truly beneficial to the learner and organisation.

Sister Norashikin: The theme itself may sound futuristic but I believe nursing will always require human touch. Through innovations to decrease paperwork, I hope that nurses will be able to spend more time with their patients.

Perhaps it is the deep passion they have for nursing that continues to fuel our nurses to do more, to constantly go beyond even in tough times. As Sister Norashikin shared – “The ability to stand together in times of hardship, knowing in our hearts that we have one another’s back”, shows the unique connection and camaraderie that nurses have.

Congratulations once again to our deserving award recipients!