​In white or green, we are fighting the same enemy during this pandemic, says nurse Harminder Singh Olikh who volunteers with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

“I am a medical trainer in the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC). I train NS men who are medics in the combat support hospital (CSH),” said Senior Staff Nurse Harminder Singh Olikh, who works in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit in SGH.

“I had always wondered what it’d be like to be part of the SAF, and I wanted to play a part in the defence of the nation. I signed up for the SAFVC in 2015, two years after getting my Singapore Citizenship. And I must say, it’s been most meaningful and enjoyable,” said Harminder.

“I have always been interested in volunteering. I have served in community clinics, participated in overseas missions and Formula 1 medical cover. Joining as a SAFVC volunteer (SV) was a natural progression.”

Win-win situation

“I bring my hospital experience to the training of the medics during their In-Camp Training and public event deployments. The CSH is set up as a mobile hospital equipped with a triage area, general wards, high dependency unit, intensive care unit and operating theatre,” said Harminder, who joined SGH in 2009, fresh from the polytechnic.

“I was involved in 2 large-scale casualty simulation exercises, where I guide the medics to attend to “casualties” promptly and render the appropriate treatment. The trainees had to deal with scenarios like cardiac arrest, drop in mental status, excessive bleeding while performing resuscitation. They’ve told me that having healthcare professionals with them is a great moral booster.”

A far cry from the SGH ICU where he works. Harminder (second from right) showing the public his combat support hospital at 2CSH Family Day 2019.

“In return, I learn to be adaptable as some things are done differently out in the field, compared to the hospital. It puts me in a completely different situation from what I encounter every day.

“During one of my outfield deployments, we had to disassemble and reassemble the field hospital to a new location within a specific time. It was physically exhausting – the pouring rain, limited visibility and muddy ground didn’t make it any easier. Despite the odds, it was most heartening when we all banded together to complete the mission,” recalled Harminder.

Harminder (first from left) was part of the last 2 National Day Parades, working alongside the army regulars and NSFs to provide medical care to the NDP contingents and members of the public during rehearsals and celebrations. 

Fighting the same enemy

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my unit – the combat support hospital - was activated to support operations at the community care facilities at the Singapore Expo. I was not activated as I was already deployed to care for COVID-19 patients in SGH ICU, as well as training non-ICU nurses for ICU work. But it doesn’t matter which role I play. In white or in green, I am still contributing to managing the pandemic.  After all, we are fighting the same enemy.”

Harminder is now preparing for his wedding in August, after the pandemic delayed the original plans. “Just a small ceremony,” said the trooper, ever mindful that the pandemic is not over yet.

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