SINGAPORE - In 2017, principal enrolled nurse Lee Tian Zhi was doing his rounds in Changi General Hospital (CGH) when he saw a patient in cold sweat and pain.
The patient was experiencing epigastric pain (pain below the ribs in the upper abdomen) - an early symptom of a heart attack. Mr Lee quickly ran an electrocardiogram (ECG) test and alerted the patient's care team.
His swift thinking and action allowed for prompt diagnosis and medical intervention, saving the patient's life.
This incident was etched in Mr Lee's mind because he had just completed his ECG course at that time, and was glad that he could apply what he had learnt.
For his excellence and dedication in patient care, Mr Lee, 36 - who has been in the profession for 13 years - received the first prize in the Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award for Enrolled Nurses on Wednesday (Nov 17). This is the second year in a row that CGH has won the top award.
The annual award, now in its 15th edition, is the highest accolade for enrolled nurses in Singapore. Enrolled nurses - usually the first point of contact for patients - are those who have completed a two-year nursing course, while registered nurses hold a diploma or degree in nursing.
Enrolled nurses support registered nurses and are responsible for providing bedside care and monitoring a patient's condition.
Mr Lee is the only male enrolled nurse among the 10 winners announced on Wednesday. Male nurses make up 11.1 per cent of the total number of nurses in Singapore.
As the first prize winner, Mr Lee received $3,500 in cash, in addition to a gold medallion and a challenge trophy that will be kept with CGH for a year.
"I would like to thank my parents - whom I surprised by joining the nursing profession - people who believed in me, including my superiors and supervisors and fellow colleagues. I am elated that that my hard work is recognised," Mr Lee said.
The first runner-up got $3,000, while the second runner-up took home $2,500. Both also received a gold medallion each.
Seven merit winners each received $800 and a certificate of merit.
Ms Juliette Chong, a senior enrolled nurse at Sengkang General Hospital, was the first runner-up.
Ms Chong, 33, who started her nursing career in 2007, volunteered to do serology testing of foreign workers at the S11 Dormitory in April 2020. In 2011, she was given the Young Investigator Award for participating in a research project on patients with end-stage renal disease.
Second runner-up Poh Jee Khim, 57, from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has been a nurse for 37 years. She was recognised for providing exemplary care to suspected Covid-19 patients undergoing the endoscopy procedure.
This is a high-risk procedure, as some of these patients may be infected, and the invasive procedure may increase transmission risk.
But Ms Poh, with her experience, skill and dedication, continued to support the procedure, potentially putting herself in harm's way, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was guest of honour at the award ceremony, in his opening address.
He added: "Their (the nurses') skills are not just clinical in nature, but also include critical soft skills, like resilience and courage, which were demonstrated by Ms Poh."
Mr Ong said enrolled nurses can improve their skills in both formal and informal ways. Currently, those who want to expand their job scope can sign up for three Certificate of Competency courses conducted by the Institute of Technical Education.
And the Ministry of Health will continue to create new courses and opportunities, Mr Ong said.
Enrolled nurses can also upgrade to become registered nurses. Mr Ong noted that it is now common to see adult learners in the Diploma in Nursing programme in Nanyang Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Those with better academic foundation can be exempted from certain modules and earn the diploma in a shorter time, instead of the usual three years, he said.
Upgrading opportunities will expand over time, Mr Ong added.
"As our healthcare system increasingly moves towards preventive and primary care, the roles of nurses will expand, especially in the community. In that respect, enrolled nurses can play an invaluable role in supporting people to improve and maintain their mental, physical and behavioural health."
Mr Ong also thank D. S. Lee Foundation and Tan Chin Tuan Foundation for supporting the award over the years.
"The award, to me, is not just a recognition of the excellent work of our enrolled nurses, but also a statement of the values we uphold as a society."