More training and mental wellness services for 14,000 NUHS staff; NTUC Health also boosting training efforts

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng addressing management and staff of the National University Health System (NUHS) and Labour Movement representatives at NUHS’s National Day Observance Ceremony on Aug 29. PHOTO: NTUC

SINGAPORE - Taking care of the infirm can be draining but the 14,000 healthcare workers in the National University Health System (NUHS) can now look forward to mental wellness services to help them cope on the job.

They will have access to one-to-one counselling, restorative circles for staff involved in a mass crisis or event, and lunchtime talks on coping skills and strategies for the workplace, among other things.

These form part of an agreement signed on Thursday (Aug 29) between the NUHS and the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors Singapore and NTUC's Healthcare Academy.

There could also be training courses in areas such as self-care and on how to handle a crisis calmly.

The management of NUHS and NTUC Health - a social enterprise in the intermediate- and long-term care sector which employs 1,000 people - have also agreed to form company training committees with the Healthcare Academy.

The committees will identify jobs and processes which need to be redesigned amid the healthcare industry's transformation, as well as implement training programmes for workers to help them keep pace with the transformation.

This comes after a company training committee was set up in May between the Healthcare Academy and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which aims to benefit 9,000 employees. The healthcare industry employs 81,000 people.

The Healthcare Academy was launched last year by the Healthcare Services Employees Union (HSEU), Employment and Employability Institute and NTUC LearningHub to boost the training and continuing education of healthcare workers.

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng witnessed the signings of the agreements at the NUHS auditorium.

NUHS chief executive John Eu-Li Wong said that through the new partnerships, NUHS aims to enable staff to work well into their 70s if they choose to do so, by equipping them with the skills needed in a digital technological world. It also wants to boost workplace safety and health in a holistic way.

"The physical and mental health of our staff are critical if they are to care for our patients, support their caregivers, educate our students and develop solutions to the challenges we face," he said.

NTUC Health's chief executive, Ms Chan Su Yee, said it also wants to help staff adapt well to the changing environment.

"It is important to equip (staff) to succeed in a job that can be challenging, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally", she said.

Ms Doreen Heng, assistant director of nursing at Alexandra Hospital which is part of NUHS, said she has seen fellow nurses feeling discouraged and burnt out after going through demanding situations like managing abusive patients.

"We need to practise patience and empathy even when faced with challenging patients and situations. Also, amid the digitalisation of the healthcare industry, (we) must also constantly adapt and learn new skills," said Ms Heng, 46.

"It is not easy to juggle all these so I feel it is important to have proactive efforts in ensuring healthcare workers can equip themselves with the mental resilience necessary for them to be peak-performing individuals and effective 'overcomers' at the same time," she said.

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