Veteran 72-year-old IMH nurse wins inaugural Extraordinary Nurse Award

(From left) Extraordinary Nurse Award winner Susheela K Chugani and Nightingale Award winner Bindthu Nair.
(From left) Extraordinary Nurse Award winner Susheela K Chugani and Nightingale Award winner Bindthu Nair. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Faced with an intellectually challenged patient who refused to wear clothes and often slept naked in his own urine on his bed, veteran nurse Susheela Chugani relied on kind words and warm food to care for him.

The patient's behaviour did not improve after five years in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), where Madam Chugani works. However, he began wearing clothes and using the urinal given to him regularly after he was moved to her ward.

"I would tell him that I'll bring him some chee cheong fun or kway teow if he wore his clothes. I would also bring the urinal to him every two hours to train him to use it," said the sprightly 72-year-old nurse, who has 52 years of experience under her belt.

Her dedication to her profession landed her the inaugural Extraordinary Nurse Award yesterday, presented by Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat, who was guest-of-honour at the IMH Nurses' Day celebration and awards ceremony.

Ms Bindthu Nair, an advanced practice nurse with IMH for 21 years, was given the prestigious Nightingale Award, for nurses who have demonstrated outstanding mentorship.

The 40-year-old took on psychiatric nursing as a specialisation following her experience dealing with a depressed man who refused treatment as he was worried about his pregnant wife.

Although patients can be difficult, Ms Nair's job satisfaction still "comes from the patients".

The same goes for Madam Chugani, whose passion is fuelled by those she cares for.

"When I bathe a patient and make them clean, the smile they give me makes me think: I can do this."

The patients who get better under her watch motivate the grandmother of three boys to keep working well past the retirement age.

"As long as I can do my job, I will keep doing it. But it has to be nursing!"