When the severe acute respiratory syndrome broke out in 2003, Ms Hu Xiaomei was touched when she saw on television the hard work of healthcare staff.
Inspired by their acts, Ms Hu, who was a 19-year-old student in China at the time, enrolled in a nursing course in Kunming Medical University in Yunnan that same year.
After a month in the course, she moved to Singapore on a nursing scholarship, pursuing a diploma in nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic.
In 2007, she was posted to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to be a staff nurse.
"Initially, I didn't know much about mental health and I felt like I should have gone to the general hospital, perhaps the emergency department, and do more to save lives," she said.
But after working for a few years in the hospital, she soon realised how meaningful her job was.
"One thing unique about being a nurse in mental health is that I will see the same patients coming back. So I build long-term and deep relationships with them. It's really entering someone's life and helping him go back to his usual life and into society," added Ms Hu, now a permanent resident.
BUILDING DEEP RELATIONSHIPS
One thing unique about being a nurse in mental health is that I will see the same patients coming back. So I build long-term and deep relationships with them. It's really entering someone's life and helping him go back to his usual life and into society.
MS HU XIAOMEI, nurse clinician at the Institute of Mental Health.
With 12 years of experience as a nurse in IMH, Ms Hu's dedication to her profession earned her the prestigious Nightingale Award, presented by Senior Minister of State for Health and Law Edwin Tong, who was guest of honour at the IMH Nurses' Day celebration and awards ceremony yesterday.
The award recognises one nurse each year for providing excellent nursing care and being an exemplary mentor to other nurses.
It was one of 19 awards given out at the ceremony to outstanding nurses, for contributions such as excellent patient care and teamwork.
When IMH established the slow-stream rehabilitation programme for long-stay patients with good rehabilitative potential in 2015, Ms Hu joined the team.
Ms Hu, 34, is now a nurse clinician in the programme's ward, where she cares for patients and provides guidance and supervision to the nurses.
To provide vocational training for patients, she taught them how to make hair clips and handicrafts in 2016.
"I like to make handicrafts with my daughter and it is one of my hobbies. So when I saw the patients wanting to have something to do, I bought materials online.
"We made hair clips and other handicrafts and put them up for sale within the hospital," said the mother of two, a daughter aged 10 and a son aged four. Her 38-year-old husband is an IT manager.
She also taught patients money management and basic customer service skills so they could sell their crafts within the hospital and keep the takings as pocket money.
Ms Hu said: "My hope is that all the patients that come to IMH will eventually go back to the community and lead normal lives again. I hope they can be independent and do the normal things that you and I can do."