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A win for nursing


July saw six nurses receive the President's Award for Nurses at a ceremony held at the Istana. Regarded as the highest accolade in Singapore's nursing profession, the award recognises nurses who have been stellar in areas of patient care delivery, education, research and administration.

Care To Go Beyond caught up with this year's recipients for a casual chat to hear their thoughts on winning the award, reflect on the profession as well as their nursing aspirations.

Hear it from our winners:

  • Aziz Ab Hamed, Senior Nurse Clinician, Institute of Mental Health
  • Julia Eng Chui Lee, Deputy Director of Nursing, KK Women's and Children's Hospital
  • Liu Fang, Senior Nurse Educator, Assisi Hospice
  • Nirmala Karmaroon, Deputy Director of Nursing, Tan Tock Seng Hospital
  • Png Gek Kheng, Chief Nurse, Changi General Hospital
  • Zhang Di, Assistant Director of Nursing, Sengkang General Hospital

Who was the first person you told when you found out you were awarded the President's Award?

Aziz: My two girls. I was shocked, and in disbelief but they told me I deserved the award.

Liu Fang: I told the person who has taught me to always give my best – my mother. She was thrilled, and I knew I had made her proud.

Nirmala: My husband. He has been my greatest supporter and motivator… he was the proudest person when he heard the news!

Zhang Di: My family! I had just landed in Changi Airport following a study trip to the United States – I'm currently doing my Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree at Duke University School of Nursing. When I saw the email, I sent it to the family group chat, and received a mixture of emojis. 

Describe how you felt when receiving the award on stage at the Istana.

Gek Kheng: My heart was pounding when the emcee called my name to receive the award from President Halimah Yacob. It felt like a dream come true as I had really looked up to the previous winners when I was a junior nurse… it was definitely a moment I will not forget.

Nirmala: Like Gek Kheng, my heart was beating very fast! For a moment, I was worried I was going to drop my trophy (laughs).

Julia: After two years since the pandemic, this is the first time that the event is being held physically at the Istana. Other than feeling privileged and happy, I felt heartened to see my family, colleagues and senior management from KKH standing amongst the audience to share my joy.

Zhang Di: While on-stage, I had quick flashbacks of my own nursing journey… from my early days in nursing to the time I became an Advanced Practice Nurse, to my current stint as an Assistant Director of Nursing at SKH. It was a reflective moment for me, and at the same time, filled with honour. 

All smiles from Aziz, Julia, Liu Fang, Nirmala, Gek Kheng and Zhang Di who received the award from President Halimah Yacob, and witnessed by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Chief Nursing Officer Ms Paulin Koh

How do you think the profession has changed over the last decade?

Aziz: Psychiatric nursing is no longer about providing custodial care. It has evolved through the years. We now help our clients find hope and be empowered. We build their strengths and teach them to be accountable for the choices they make. In the past, we took care of patients' basic needs only. Now, we teach them skills to survive on their own and find purpose and accomplishment in their lives.

Gek Kheng: The nursing profession has increased in depth and breadth, both in clinical expertise and care development. Today's nurses are advocates for their patients, and play a unique role in providing all-rounded care to them. As the first point of contact for patients, families and caregivers, nurses are in the position to understand patients' needs, habits and preferences on a deeper level, and contribute that person-centred knowledge for each patient's care plan.

Julia: I have witnessed the evolution of gynaecological oncology nursing care. In fact, I feel honoured to have been part of these transformations. Over the last 27 years in my nursing career, patients and their caregivers are becoming more educated, and well-informed. Therefore, nurses have to be equipped with sufficient knowledge and good communication skills to address their concerns.

Liu Fang: Nursing plays an essential role in health promotion, maintenance and improvement. I have seen more and more nurses becoming enablers. They empower patients as well as their families to manage their health better. Over the years, I have seen a move towards health promoting and person-centred care… I think this paradigm shift will continue.

Nirmala: Nursing has evolved simultaneously with the advancement of technology. Today, nurses need to be more proficient with information management and be equipped with the latest best practices to make timely decisions. 

Tell us your hopes and aspirations for nursing.

Gek Kheng: Geriatric nursing and the care of the elderly are areas particularly close to my heart. Personally, I have a vision of wanting to help seniors age well and independently in the community. One of the ways is by building our clinical expertise so that nurses can deliver geriatric care effectively. I aspire to empower every nurse to shine in their clinical domains, as well as to hone their expertise and skills further. It is important to share what you know – when you work with people, you get more ideas, inspirations and motivation… you can achieve bigger things together!

Liu Fang: With our ageing population, there will be an increasing demand to manage patients with complex and chronic conditions. Hence, it is necessary for every nurse to have basic palliative care knowledge and skills to support and advocate for their patients and families. The nursing fraternity should continue upskilling ourselves so that we can take up broader and bigger roles in the future.

Nirmala: Moving forward, I hope to further strengthen and develop a more sustainable nursing workforce, one that will allow nurses to flourish and achieve greater success. As the population's healthcare needs have changed, so has the scope of nursing practice. The future of nursing can be exciting as there will be plenty of opportunities and possibly new roles for nurses.

Zhang Di: I wish to see nursing achieve more development in terms of demonstrating professional value and potential in improving population health and related outcomes. I believe each nurse has a part to play in the education system. Their attitude towards their juniors and nursing students, compassion for patients and level of professional integrity exert significant influence on the professional journey and career choices of the younger generations.

More information on the award recipients can be found here.