Ng Suan Gek (left) at the Ministry of Health Nurses' Merit Award ceremony with Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Health and Dr Ng Wai May, Director of Nursing, NNI (right).
Nurses’ Merit Award 2023 recipient, Ng Suan Gek, Nurse Clinician – Advanced Practice Nurse, NNI, shares how her ‘can-do’ attitude has shaped her nursing career
"I will try and see how," said Ng Suan Gek when her brother suggested she go into nursing, and this willingness to take on new opportunities and navigate challenges has continued throughout her career.
"I was trying to decide what to do after I left school. My brother said nursing was a noble profession that helped people and suggested it as a career option, so I thought I would give it a try and see if I liked it," says Suan Gek, now a Nurse Clinician - Advanced Practice Nurse, NNI.
And like it she did! As a student nurse, Suan Gek enjoyed interacting with patients, seeing them recover and go back home. She qualified in 2000 and did inpatient nursing on neurology wards and intensive care before joining NNI in 2013. In 2016, an opportunity came up to manage patients with traumatic brain injuries and Suan Gek stepped up to take on this new challenge.
Traumatic brain injuries can range from mild to severe. Patients transit through different phases of recovery and can face long-term disabilities that require a wide scope of care tailored to individual needs.
"Patients with traumatic brain injuries can recover well physically and look ‘normal’ but they often face invisible challenges such as slowed thought processes, poor concentration, headaches and giddiness, which can last for weeks to months," explains Suan Gek.
To address these problems, Suan Gek is part of an interprofessional Post Concussion Team, which includes neurosurgeons, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. They work together to provide holistic care, helping patients manage their symptoms thereby reducing the impact on their work and daily lives.
Suan Gek (third from right) with colleagues from Head Injury Support Group and Broken Brains at NNI Brain Awareness 2023.
Suan Gek also gives talks in the community to raise awareness about the invisible challenges caused by head injuries so that the public can understand the difficulties her patients face and provide appropriate support. Her ideas and commitment to continually improve patient care are appreciated by her colleagues.
"Suan Gek’s compassion and dedication have won her many compliments from patients and their caregivers. She has always been a keen learner and never fails to show her enthusiasm in learning. We can always rely on her to infuse positivity and energy to the team," says Dr Ng Wai May, Director and Advanced Practice Nurse, Nursing NNI.
Suan Gek obtained her Masters in Nursing and Advanced Practice Nurse accreditation in 2016, followed by the National Collaborative Prescribing Program certificate three years later. This allows her to access patients’ medication records and prescribe, saving her patients time as they no longer need to wait for a doctor to sign the prescription.
Suan Gek is passionate about mentoring and sharing her knowledge with junior nurses. While helming the subacute ward in Renci@TTSH, she launched various in-service sessions for the nurses to address knowledge-practice gaps to improve care for patients with neurological conditions. She is also a facilitator for interprofessional education, where she assists healthcare workers from different clinical, administrative and operational roles to communicate effectively and problem solve together.
What drives Suan Gek to keep learning and trying new things? "Throughout the years, patients have taught me powerful lessons about empathy, gratitude, resilience, and human connection. I am also grateful towards my colleagues for being so supportive. They have always inspired me to reach more of my potential to become a better nurse," says Suan Gek.