On a flight from South Africa to Singapore, a passenger drinking a glass of wine dropped her glass. Fellow passengers, noticing she had fallen unconscious, summoned the flight attendant, Ms Ivy Tay.
Fortunately, there was a doctor on board who began treating the patient, giving instructions to the attendants, none of whom had much nursing experience.
"I didn't know what to do. I felt very helpless," the 39-year-old recalled. "That was when I thought, I want to do something about this."
That incident, 11 years ago, was the turning point for Ms Tay, who is now a nurse working at Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) emergency department.
She was one of 100 exceptional nurses recognised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) at its Nurses' Merit Award ceremony yesterday.
The award is given to nurses who have shown consistently outstanding performance for the past three years, upgraded themselves professionally and contributed towards promoting the nursing profession.
Number of nurses in Singapore as of last year.
They come from a variety of sectors, such as private and public hospitals, and intermediate and long-term care institutions like Ren Ci Hospital and Econ Healthcare.
At the ceremony, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong also announced the launch of applications for a new Community Nursing Scholarship, to build nursing leaders in community care, such as looking after patients in their homes, nursing homes and polyclinics.
Mr Gan said Singapore needs to transform care delivery to meet the needs of a fast-ageing population.
BROAD SKILL SET NEEDED
We are expected to handle anyone from newborn babies to the elderly and the skill set required is very broad. It moves beyond nursing - we gain the trust of long-term patients and become their confidants.
MR RICHARD LOW SAI YIN, 39, a senior nurse manager at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, on community care.
Part of this involves strengthening community-based care to enable senior citizens to age well in place.
"We want to develop community nursing as a strong career track to underpin our care transformation to bring care beyond hospital to the community," he added.
MOH is offering the scholarship to O- and A-level students, existing nursing students and in-service nurses pursuing degree studies. The scholarship will be awarded to 20 students and nurses each year.
As of last year, there were about 40,000 nurses in Singapore, according to the MOH website.
For Ms Tan Meng Guek, 53, assistant director of nursing, quality management and social services at Econ Healthcare, the newly launched scholarship will be important in attracting young nurses to community healthcare.
"Acute hospitals are seen as more glamorous. Young nurses often think that community healthcare is dull and for older nurses," she said. "But I hope they can see that this sector is really challenging, interesting and very fulfilling."
Mr Richard Low Sai Yin, a 39-year-old senior nurse manager at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, agrees there is a need to grow a pool of nurses in the community setting.
"It offers unique challenges to nurses," he said. "We are expected to handle anyone from newborn babies to the elderly and the skill set required is very broad. It moves beyond nursing - we gain the trust of long-term patients and become their confidants."
For Mr Low and Ms Tan, community healthcare is very satisfying because they have continuing interactions with patients and build emotional relationships with them.
"There was this nursing home patient who felt abandoned by her family and cried, wanting to go home," Ms Tan recalled.
"It took two months of us spending a lot of time with her daily, listening to her concerns and sharing our own stories before she cheered up.
"Now it is so rewarding to see her happy and feeling at home. These patients have become so special to me, like my own family."