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Badges of honour for our everyday heroes: Nurses’ Merit Award


Since 1976, the Nurses’ Merit Award has been handed out to nurses for their stellar and consistent performance. Beyond the hospital grounds, recipients of this award must have also made significant contributions to the profession. This year, 100 nurses were presented with the award. The Care To Go Beyond team caught up with three of them to hear their thoughts on this new milestone achieved.

For some, community care is often seen as a humdrum sector. Well, take a peek into some of the duties of National University Health System Assistant Nurse Clinician Ms Antoinette Goh.

Antoinette, who started out in emergency medicine, was curious about patients who came into the unit for minor ailments – she often wondered if these cases could have been managed by providers in the community. As luck should have it, she was offered an opportunity to be involved in the development of the Primary Care Network (PCN) – a network of General Practitioner clinics supported by National University Health System (NUHS) nurses and care coordinators, who provide care to patients with chronic medical conditions.

As the clinical nursing lead, Antoinette developed workflows for the network, as well as services to support patients through collaboration with community agencies. Recognising the importance of holistic care, she also increased the scope of services to include patient education, lifestyle changes for health and medication management. She went on to become a Zone Lead in NUHS’ post-discharge care programme – Carehub.

The 30-year-old Nurses’ Merit Award winner reflects on her journey:

“Beng a zone lead in Carehub, I manage the health of a group of residents staying in the western region of Singapore. When a new patient is registered, I review the case and assign it to nurses in my zone. I also have to do home visits, ensure sufficient manpower, guide newer nurses, discuss complex cases with my colleagues… and more! What amazes me over the years is that nurses have the ability to care for someone, no matter how difficult some can be, because compassion and empathy is, and should be, innate for a nurse.

Now, I’m learning to understand the behaviour behind a person’s actions, and how I can motivate them to change their behaviour to achieve the best outcome. At the same time, I am also learning to go easy on myself, even if my efforts and best intentions fail. After all, nurses are human too.”

Institute of Mental Health (IMH) Assistant Nurse Clinician Mr Koh Chee Meng’s recount of a patient he once had illustrates Antoinette’s thoughts perfectly.

“Having been a nurse for close to 40 years, I carry with me many memorable experiences. One particular incident was with a patient who was admitted here (at IMH). When he first came in, he seemed angry and looked quite upset. He would not speak to us and kept screaming for his family who were overseas at that time.

While thinking of ways to connect with him, I recalled an earlier conversation we had about his family. One day, I asked him about them, hoping to break the ice. Thankfully, it worked! I managed to gain his trust, and he opened up to us and complied with the treatment. When he was about to be discharged, he expressed his gratitude to the nurses for not giving up on him.

Currently, Chee Meng is working on a pilot project named the ‘Recovery Oriented Transition Care Model’. Working with a multi-disciplinary team, he follows up on discharged patients by conducting weekly home visits and supports patients in their transition from hospital to community.

During his (close to) 40 years as a nurse, Chee Meng has always been guided by passion and courage... even as he pursued his bachelor’s degree – at 60 years old!

On this note of learning, Nurse Clinician Ms Juraihah Mohamed Saleh, also a Nurses’ Merit Award winner, conducts Basic Cardiac Life Support and Automated Electric Defibrillator courses at work – the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS).

“Winning this award emphasises the importance of imparting healthcare knowledge and skills to others. I remember an incident when my son choked on a nut. My immediate response was to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre and dislodge the food. Fortunately, he recovered soon after. I’m thankful that I’m equipped with life-saving skills, and it’s important for more people to learn these skills.”

For 17 years, Juraihah has been bustling around the NHCS’ Catheterisation Laboratory as she works with doctors to perform complex interventional cardiac procedures. She also works together with interventionists, medical technologists and radiographers for patient care.

“What is most significant about our work in the catheterisation lab is to be able to revive a patient who could be on the brink of death. Everyone in the entire team has to be efficient and vigilant when responding to any situation. The feeling of being able to save one’s life is indescribable,” shared the 42-year-old. 

To view the Nurses’ Merit Award recipients this year, click here.

Two of this year’s President’s Award for Nurses winners reminisces about their journey in nursing. Click here to read the article.