SINGAPORE, Aug 1 — Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, all eyes have been on the coronavirus wards here where frontline healthcare workers have been toiling day and night to care for infected patients.
But in the non-pandemic wards, fires are being fought, too, behind the scenes every time an infected person enters their doors.
Tomomi Ogura, 34, an assistant nurse clinician at the National University Hospital’s (NUH) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), recounted one such incident during a recent interview with TODAY.
Around the middle of last year, the NICU team was called to be on standby for an emergency caesarean section of a suspected Covid-19 patient who was expecting premature twins.
While the team had been conducting mock drills to prepare to handle any suspected Covid-19 patients who are pregnant, their practices had only involved situations where there is only one baby.
To top it all off, the emergency call also happened to be the first time the ward was receiving a Covid-19 patient.
If the situation was not stressful enough, the NICU team then received a second emergency call for yet another premature caesarean delivery while making preparations for the first set of twins.
At that moment, snap decisions on how to allocate resources had to be made to manage both deliveries, said Ogura, as the team was stretched on manpower and equipment.
“I was just really overwhelmed Because (both were) emergency caesarean sections, I had no time to really think until the end of the shift,” she said.
“I just had to really prioritise what was more important at that point of time.”
Recalling that eventful day, Ogura said she felt thankful that the team had risen to the occasion and met the challenge like a well-oiled machine.
“(Because) it’s a pandemic, I’m sure we were a bit fearful. But that night, everyone was fearless,” she said.
Ogura was one of the 125 nurses who were presented the Nurses’ Merit Award by the Ministry of Health on July 7.
Introduced in 1976, the award is given to nurses who have displayed noteworthy and exceptional performance, participated in professional development, and contributed to raising the nursing profession.
Ogura told TODAY that what makes the job rewarding is knowing that she is helping the sick, something that she knew she wanted to do since she was young.
“That’s the main thing — I feel very satisfied because this job is really about helping people.”
Fearless in times of crisis
Another Nurses’ Merit Award recipient is Sih Siew Gaik, 56, a nurse manager at Farrer Park Hospital’s accident and emergency department.
Sih said her interest in the profession was sparked by movies about hospitals, especially when there were scenes of an emergency room.
“I love all the action, especially all the trauma — gunshot wounds, amputated limbs. The minute I see this, it raises my adrenaline,” she said.
The thrill of being in the middle of the action drove her to apply for a nursing job in Saudi Arabia, where she worked for 10 years from 2004.
Sih recalled how in the first few weeks, she initially questioned her decision to work in the Middle East as the language barrier, combined with the intensive training programme there, made her feel stressed and depressed.
But all that evaporated two months into the job when she experienced her first crisis — a bomb explosion — while on shift.
“We were told that it was a mass casualty and emergency that was the time when I said, yes, this is what I (signed up for),” she said.
Even after 35 years working in the sector, Sih said that experience remains the most memorable time of her nursing career.
One memory that sticks out vividly in her mind is of a patient who came in completely disfigured by the blast.
She was surprised by how reconstruction surgery helped the patient recover.
“I thought he would not make it, but he survived,” she said.
Chng Lee Ming, an assistant nurse clinician at Parkway East Hospital’s newborn intensive care unit. — TODAY pic
Gratitude from patients keeps her going
Nursing had not been Chng Lee Ming’s first choice. In fact, the Malaysian national had initially planned to go to university to become a lawyer.
But because there were not enough university spots in Malaysia to admit everyone in her cohort, Chng, now 39, chose to take up a sponsored nursing training stint at a hospital as a last resort.
It ended up being a choice she would not regret.
Before she began her time at nursing school, she was assigned to be a hospital aid for about two weeks.
On her first day on the job, she was tasked to shower a bedridden elderly who had been lying in bed for a month.
“To me, it was just a bath but the patient’s son came forward and held my hands tightly and said: ‘Thank you, this means so much to my dad’,” she said.
“I was in shock This was the first ‘thank you’ that warmed me so much that it changed my mind (about the job) within a day.”
Since then, Chng, who is an assistant nurse clinician at Parkway East Hospital’s newborn intensive care unit, said such words of gratitude from patients are what keeps her going, especially during times when she thought of changing careers due to burnout and fatigue.
She recalled another instance where, while she was at a friend’s wedding, a three-year-old girl came up to her, gave her a hug and thanked her for saving her life.
Chng said she was initially stunned as she had not recognised the child, but later realised that the girl was a patient whom she had helped when she was eight months old.
Then, the girl had to undergo an operation and was in critical condition.
“I had almost forgotten her because every day you deal with so many cases The moment was so touching that I almost teared up,” Chng said.
“Everything we do, we serve with our heart and go the extra mile. When we spend time talking to patients, supporting them and getting them out of danger we do this from the heart.”
Nurses’ Day falls on Aug 1. — TODAY