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Bringing healthcare to the community


Supported by some 60 nurses and allied health professionals – the Community Health on Wheels programme by local humanitarian organisation, Singapore Red Cross, was introduced in July this year.

(From left) Staff Nurse Sarah Ho from Changi General Hospital, Staff Nurse Gayatri Murugasan and Senior Staff Nurse Oslee Kwang, both from Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

This one-stop, community-based mobile healthcare programme brings free basic medical care to the heartlands – particularly for the elderly population. Three volunteer nurses from CHoW share their nursing and volunteering stories.

My brother, my motivator (Sarah Ho)

Growing up with a brother with an intellectual disability shaped my outlook in life. I loved him for everything he was. He has inspired me to serve the community, especially the vulnerable.

As a novice nurse, I know a long and interesting journey awaits me. For me, caring for patients who are at the end of their lives creates the most lasting memories.

Sarah (right) conducting basic health assessment for a resident.

There was a particular incident during my early attachments as a nursing student that I will never forget. I was taking care of a patient who was diagnosed with end-stage congestive heart failure. One morning, he was unusually restless, somewhat delirious, and kept complaining of pain without specifying the exact issue. We informed his doctors, and tried our best to alleviate his discomfort by re-positioning him.

Not long after that, when I was about to serve him lunch, I was greeted by a motionless body instead. He had quietly passed away on his bed in the same position we had left him that morning. I was slightly shaken but went on to perform my first Last Office duties for him. On hindsight, I regretted not being more knowledgeable about the signs of impending death. I felt that I could have done more to ensure a dignified death, as well as inform his family earlier so that they could be at his bedside.

While it may seem obvious, nursing and medicine are two separate career tracks with their own specialties. We are not just handmaidens to the doctors! There are many career tracks and opportunities for advancement. For anyone keen on nursing, I highly recommend attending career preview opportunities offered by various institutions or the Healthcare Attachment Programme by MOH Holdings. This would give you access to the wards, and allow you a first-hand experience of nursing.

The heartworking male nurse (Oslee Kwang)

When the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) occurred in 2003, one group of heroes stood out the most to me: The nurses. Soldiers on the frontline, they had contributed selflessly and courageously during this national crisis. I had been intrigued by nursing since, and joined the profession with my father’s encouragement. He believed that my outgoing personality and aptitude for hands-on work were perfect for the profession.

I have been a nurse for seven years now at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. However, even as I cared for my patients, I could not shake off the compulsion to do more for the community. There are still gaps in the healthcare provision in Singapore, making it inaccessible to some. Hence, I started volunteering for SRC and was all for CHoW when I learnt about it.

Oslee (left) sharing useful health tips with a resident.

Through my volunteer work at CHoW, I have developed greater empathy and a broadened perspective on the range of socio-health issues affecting the lives of vulnerable people in the community. I am thankful to be able to reach out to, and assist someone in need – even if it is just one person! Asking for help is not easy for many. As such, I am extremely heartened to be part of an adept team of volunteers that shares the same passion in caring for others as I do.

Nursing may not be the most glamorous job, but to me, it is most meaningful and fulfilling.

The sweetest thank-you (Gayatri Murugasan)

Nursing today may be highly unrecognisable to its early founders – what with its multiple career tracks, technological advancements and opportunities for upgrading! However, one thing stays the same. It is still one of the most rewarding professions in the world.

Gayatri (third from left) with her colleagues from Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

I feel privileged to be part of CHoW as it makes healthcare more accessible to those in need. An interesting aspect introduced in the programme would be the assessment of not just an individual’s medical needs, but also their psychosocial needs. With elderly suicide on the rise in the community, the programme helps in early diagnosis and intervention for these seniors.

As a nurse, one of my most memorable cases was a patient who was admitted for status epilepticus (seizures lasting longer than five minutes). He was warded in the Intensive Care Unit for about two months due to his unstable condition and poor response to various treatments. As a last hurrah, the doctors decided to administer one final treatment option. To our amazement, he responded positively to the treatment and survived the ordeal!

His ailment had caused him to lose his mobility, and he was fully bed-bound during his hospitalisation period. Together with other healthcare professionals, we helped him to regain his strength and he was eventually discharged.

Before he left, he wrote close to 30 thank-you cards for those who had taken care of him. One sentence stood out to me particularly: “I would not have been able to write these notes if it were not for all your help”. This has remained the sweetest memory I have ever had as a nurse.

Nursing can be tough, but I feel recharged each time my patients recover and become stronger than before. This motivates me to strive further in my career.