An incredible 28 compliments from patients and caregivers in ONE year! This is not enough for SingHealth Quality Service Awards Superstar Shaun Seow who is also coaching his SGH colleagues to be winners in patient experience, too.
Shaun Seow, Senior Staff Nurse from Ward 66A, was one of only 14 Superstar award winners among 3,300 award recipients in the 2023 edition of the SHQSA. The award honours healthcare workers who have delivered quality care and excellent service to patients. It drew a total of 40 participating healthcare institutions, from public and private sectors, as well as the community care sector.
What goes into the making of a Superstar?
Getting past being starry eyed
Before joining the profession, the 33-year-old nurse had the misconception that nurses would just be holding on to a clipboard and following doctors around. When reality kicked in, he was surprised that Nursing involved not just medical skills. Equally important were the soft skills on how to manage people they dealt with such as patients and relatives. “It was a culture shock to me and I decided that this is a skillset that I want to develop and hone.”
Guiding stars along the way
SSN Shaun, then an enrolled nurse, won the Enrolled Nurse Quiz in 2012
SSN Shaun reveals, “When I was young, I was already naturally soft-spoken. I have never liked raising my voice, even when I’m angry.” He recalls as a young nurse, observing how his preceptor dealt with his patients in a soft and calm tone and being amazed by the results. “Even the patients who were angry were calmed down and eventually spoke to him nicely. It was truly an eye-opener and I aspired to be like him.” Today, when he is told he is such a calm and collected person, he’s happy that he has successfully emulated his mentor.
Lighting up the way
SSN Shaun’s Senior Nurse Manager, Jaynthi D/O Karappiah describes him as, “He communicates tactfully and confidently with patients and their family. He always puts patients at the heart of his work and always goes the extra mile for them, such as arranging their follow up appointments on the same day to avoid multiple visits.”
SSN Shaun with SNM Jaynthi D/O Karappiah
In many of the compliments, one factor shone constantly. Patients and caregivers mentioned how appreciative they were of how he gave them his time, whether it was listening to them, answering their questions, providing explanations in depth, and especially in giving them updates on their or their loved ones’ condition.
SSN Shaun explains what motivates him. “At one point, my dad was hospitalised. When I asked the nurses for updates, I encountered two types of responses. One was very helpful in updating me regularly and the other was very task-orientated. As a caregiver, I felt the second type of response did not allay my anxiety.” The experience struck a chord with SSN Shaun and he vowed to never forget the patient’s and caregiver’s point of view and feelings. His motivation is to treat others how he would want to be treated.
Now a preceptor himself, SSN Shaun is very mindful of how overwhelming it can be for new nurses to adapt to the ward culture. Things have to be done fast, correctly and precisely. To help them along, he came up with a chart of the main tasks/care to be provided to the patients at specific timing by the hour. For example, for AM shift, 0700 hours – take over report and start serving oral medications, 0800 hours –assist junior associate with serving of breakfast diet, assisted showers and participate in doctors' rounds if possible, etc. The tasks were further classified by roles e.g. in-charge nurse, junior associate, etc. It has gotten great feedback and allows his trainees to understand what is expected of them and also reflect on where they could have done better. Their performance improved as a result – future stars in the making!
Another innovation he co-created with his SNM Jaynthi for his ward is a ‘4-step approach’ in dealing with caregivers. It is a simple but systematic method of ensuring that caregivers are regularly updated of their loved ones’ conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, visits to patients were restricted. Both the relatives and the patients were anxious due to the lack of contact. Relatives would often call in the night for information about their loved ones. Noticing this was a gap to bridge, the 4-step approach was initiated. The four steps covered care for the first four days of hospitalization.
There was some initial push back from colleagues who felt this was more work but once they got used to it, it became part of their routine work. The result? Caregivers are reassured, their anxiety allayed and they are less prone to complaining.
SSN Shaun also revealed he has other interests in innovation, research and education, which is why he enjoys working at SGH. He feels there are many opportunities and career paths for nurses. This also fuels his passion for his calling as a nurse and to excel at being a Superstar nurse!
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