SINGAPORE - Nurse Antoinette Goh wants her patients to stay out of hospital.
Beyond providing medical care and support while they are warded, she sees the role of nurses as helping patients "continue to stay healthy after their discharge from the hospital to reduce the possibility of re-admission", said the assistant nurse clinician at the National University Health System's Regional Health Office.
As part of her job scope, she helps recovering patients' transition from the hospital to their home environments, taking into account their medical and social needs.
For instance, she conducts home visits to ensure that the patients' living environments are safe, and that they have the necessary support from their family members.
The patients she works with are often elderly, with complex medical conditions or several illnesses at the same time.
"I believe in empowering people, by helping them take ownership of their medical conditions," said Ms Goh, 31. This entails identifying their needs, helping them understand their medical conditions, and take active steps for their well-being such as watching their diets.
Outside of work, she volunteered at nursing homes and hospices, and is a regular on humanitarian trips to Cambodia, where she helps to set up mobile medical clinics and teach first aid to the communities there.
Ms Goh was one of 100 nurses presented with the yearly Nurses' Merit Award by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (July 8).
The award is given to nurses who have "displayed noteworthy and exceptional performance, participated in professional development, and contributed to raising the nursing profession", said the MOH.
They come from a variety of care settings, spanning the community care sector, private hospitals and public healthcare institutions.
Each award comes with a medal to be worn as part of the nurse's uniform, and a cash prize of $1,000.
Currently 42,000-strong, the nursing workforce has grown over the years from 36,000 in 2013, and its role has expanded to encompass community nursing, education, research and technology so as to improve the quality of care for patients and their resulting health and quality of life.
Mr Koh Chee Meng, an assistant nurse clinician at the Institute of Mental Health, was part of a team that piloted the institution's Recovery Oriented Transition Care Model last April. Under this programme, he conducts weekly home visits to follow up with discharged patients from his ward to ensure that they are coping well.
"I think it's important for us as nurses to ensure that they're not left alone, and for them to remember that we still care for them even when they are no longer in the hospital with us," he said.
He added that building rapport with the patients has made it easier for them to share the problems and worries that they struggle with.
The 60-year-old said he is a firm believer in lifelong learning, and completed his nursing degree in May this year.
Mr Koh, who has been in nursing for 36 years, also holds a diploma in nursing from Nanyang Polytechnic, as well as an advanced diploma in nursing for mental health.
The degree course helped him learn how to better communicate with his patients and understand their needs, which has helped him to guide and support them along their road to recovery, said Mr Koh, who leads a team of nurses at IMH.
To support the professional growth of nurses in community care, MOH launched a Community Nursing Competency Framework in January, which defines the scope of work, roles and competencies of nurses at various stages of their career.
Besides providing greater clarity on their roles as community nurses, this will ensure that training and development can be better structured and organised.
Nurses who are keen in developing further clinical skills and knowledge in specific areas will be able to sign up for courses on the new National Nursing Academy website, which was launched in March to promote lifelong learning for nurses.