Nurses go on to spread the love after work

What started out as a group of five nurses interested in giving back to the community has grown to a group of 30 in the past six years. Many of these TTSH nurses volunteer on their days off so they can get to know patients better as they are too busy
What started out as a group of five nurses interested in giving back to the community has grown to a group of 30 in the past six years. Many of these TTSH nurses volunteer on their days off so they can get to know patients better as they are too busy to do so during their working hours.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

On their days off, they visit nursing homes, share health tips and lend a listening ear

During the day, they serve as nurses in various hospital wards - tending to everyone from cancer patients to distraught family members.

But even after hours of standing on their feet and doing work that many others would not want to do, these nurses continue taking on other tasks on their days off or after work hours.

The group of around 30 young nurses from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) have been spending their free time doing community work, both together and on their own.

They visit nursing homes or volunteer their medical expertise in neighbourhoods, taking blood pressure and giving advice on medication.

Many do so because their daily workload does not allow them the time to get to know patients as well as they would like.

A TOUCH CAN MEAN THE WORLD

Sometimes, (patients) just want some companionship.

Just give them your time or your touch - it can mean so much to them.

NADIAH ERNIYANTI MALIKI, senior staff nurse

Said senior staff nurse Joey Yeo, 31, who works in the hospital's continuing and community care department: "Spending time outside of our work lets us get to know some patients better."

Her colleague, Ms Jasmine Tay, also 31, who works with cancer patients, said: "What I do in the ward is not enough."

During Chinese New Year, for example, nurses might visit long-term care wards to spread the cheer - singing songs and delivering festive goodies and red packets to the elderly. Some of it is paid for out of their own pockets, although they also ask friends and colleagues for contributions.

Others, such 30-year-old Nadiah Erniyanti Maliki, help out at organisations of their choice.

She helps to feed patients and teach nursing aides at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled on her days off, providing a listening ear when it is needed.

"Sometimes, (patients) just want some companionship," said the senior staff nurse. "Just give them your time or your touch - it can mean so much to them."

Some of the nurses also make regular trips to Batam in Indonesia, where they set up mobile clinics providing basic health services.

Although the informal group does not actively recruit new members, word of mouth has seen it grow more than six times in size in the past few years. When it first started out in 2009, only five nurses were involved. Now, there are 30.

And instead of being tired out by all the extra work they are putting in on their days off, some find it helps them empathise better with patients they meet in their day job.

The most important thing, they say, is being committed to the work that they are doing. "It can't be just a one-off event," said 27-year-old staff nurse Grace Lai. "What people really want is rapport, and that can't be built in a day."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2015, with the headline 'Nurses go on to spread the love after work'. Print Edition | Subscribe