July is a month of distinction for Singapore’s nurses because two highly notable awards are handed out to deserving recipients – the Nurses’ Merit Award and President’s Award for Nurses.
While both awards recognise outstanding nurses for their significant performances and contributions to nursing, the latter carries prestige as the highest accolade in the profession and is given to exemplary nurses who have demonstrated leadership and innovation.
One of the five recipients of the President’s Award for Nurses this year, Ms Kala Narayanasamy is honoured to have clinched the award. In 1993, she was also one of the recipients of the Nurses’ Merit Award too!
“I feel happy receiving this award but I am even more delighted to see the happiness it has brought to the people around me: My family, friends and colleagues.”
At 59, Kala could be planning for her next phase in life – retirement – but she is not ready to do so just yet. Instead, she is leading the development of nursing services for the new Woodlands Health Campus (WHC), which is opening progressively in 2023. Drawing upon her 40 years of nursing experience, Kala aims to reinvent the delivery of care in an integrated way.
The Deputy Director of Nursing at WHC believes in nurturing younger nurses. She is often on the lookout for avenues to let them take on more leadership roles. For example, she initiated reviews and redefined the roles of ward nurses, Advance Practice Nurses and nurse clinicians in WHC’s pre-operation wards through piloting of the Enhanced Care Areas. Here, patients requiring a greater degree of observation and intervention are placed together. With this initiative, nurses are empowered to explore ways for patients to recover faster.
“After all these years, I still think about the day I first donned my uniform... how I tied my hair up in a bun and put on my nursing cap. The uniform gives me a sense of pride, achievement and professionalism. Nursing will never fail to reward you in different ways. You give it 100%, and you will receive 200%,” Kala gushed.
Fellow award recipient Ms Chin Soh Mun, Director of Nursing at Dover Park Hospice (DPH), shares a lot in common with Kala. Apart from having the same nurturing spirits, both are also experienced orthopaedic nurses!
For Soh Mun, her journey in palliative care began eight years ago, when she was approached by the Medical Director at DPH. Despite her lack of experience in palliative care then, Soh Mun was highly respected for her decades-long experience in nursing management.
“I had been working in acute care for many years; it was time for a change.” The 66-year-old recalled.
One hurdle Soh Mun had to overcome was communication. As palliative care involves dealing with patients with life-threatening and terminal illnesses, conversations with patients are not always easy. It was through observations of her co-workers that Soh Mun learnt how to broach delicate issues and communicate well with her patients and their family members.
Today, Soh Mun has completely eased into her role. In her world now, the word ‘Puatoh’ (Hokkien term for fall), takes on a totally new meaning.
“It stands for Patients Under Active Observations for Healthcare-associated falls, a QI project!” she says with a gentle smile.
As a member of the Quality Improvement (QI) committee under the Agency for Integrated Care, Soh Mun develops service quality toolkits for nursing homes. Soh Mun initiated QI training in DPH and had a hand in the special “Puatoh” project. The project was successfully presented at the National Palliative QI Forum, and even made international headlines at the BMJ International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare held in the United Kingdom.
The avid traveller muses: “I am honoured yet humbled to receive the President’s Award for Nurses. My nursing journey in the past 48 years has been very experiential, I’ve learnt something new with every different role.
I will continue to improve on the delivery of care, as well as focus on staff development. This was a proud and joyous moment for DPH, the community care sector and myself.”
For a full list of this year’s President’s Award for Nurses recipients, click here.
To read the penned thoughts of three Nurses’ Merit Award winners, click here.