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#CouragetoCareSG: A frontline nurse’s juggling act


The past few months have been a whirlwind for Senior Nurse Manager Tan Pek Hoon, Head Nurse of Yishun Polyclinic, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP). It has seen her juggle multiple roles – co-leading the National Healthcare Group (NHG) mass swabbing team, and fulfilling her duties as a mother, wife and daughter. Get a peek into what goes on behind her juggling act.

As the Head Nurse at Yishun Polyclinic, I have to ensure nursing services run smoothly at the polyclinic. With the emergence of COVID-19, I’ve also been tasked to co-lead the NHG mass swabbing team, which requires my full attention and commitment, as the team is deployed almost daily to different locations, including weekends and public holidays. My work includes supervising the swabbers’ work on the ground and assisting the infection control team with guidelines for the mass swabbing team. In my absence, the Deputy Head Nurse at Yishun Polyclinic sees to the running of day-to-day operations of nursing services at the clinic and keeps me updated daily.

Every day is a new learning opportunity: You never stop gaining knowledge as a nurse! Though it has been tiring, being part of the mass swabbing team has broadened my horizons in nursing. It is a completely different experience from working in the polyclinic. I always remind the team, as well as my clinic nurses, about the importance of showing empathy to our patients. I check the technique of each swabber and remind them to be gentle to minimise discomfort for the person being tested.

Even prior to my deployment to the mass swabbing team, I had already come into contact with positive COVID-19 cases at the polyclinic. However, I feel that there is no need to be afraid. Infection spread can be prevented as long as we comply strictly with infection control guidelines, don the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) properly and practise hand hygiene diligently. This period also serves as a timely reminder that we should always be mindful of infection control practices, not just during a pandemic.

As my duties also fall on the weekends and public holidays, my family members have been concerned that I was not getting sufficient rest. On my end, the mum guilt is real… I feel really bad that I am unable to cook and care for the family as usual. However, my loved ones understand the importance of my job and show their support by helping with chores to lighten my load. I am really thankful for their encouragement and support, especially in such times.

Thankfully, the majority of my patients have also been very nice and appreciative. An example was when a patient actually bought us cold drinks and offered words of encouragement, after seeing us sweat profusely in our PPE. ☺ In spite of the current situation, my passion for nursing makes me look forward to my job every day. I love seeing the smiles on my patients’ faces and being able to care for them.