Eye jabs by nurses free up docs' time

Senior staff nurse Chow Peck Foong preparing to administer an IVT injection on patient Han Boon Huat. Training nurses to do the procedure helps Tan Tock Seng Hospital meet the growing demand for such shots.
Senior staff nurse Chow Peck Foong preparing to administer an IVT injection on patient Han Boon Huat. Training nurses to do the procedure helps Tan Tock Seng Hospital meet the growing demand for such shots.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Mr Han Boon Huat, 68, has to get an injection into his eye cavity every month at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) to treat his age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that blurs his vision.

But unlike many other patients who get such intravitreal (IVT) injections, Mr Han is among the first at the hospital to have the injections administered by a nurse. Previously, the procedure was carried out only by doctors.

"As long as they are trained, it doesn't really matter if the injection is carried out by a nurse or a doctor. I felt no significant differences during the process," the retiree said.

Two nurses have been trained so far, and they have given about 30 injections, under the supervision of doctors, to patients who have conditions such as wet age-related macular degeneration, diabetic maculopathy and retinal vein occlusions.

The procedure involves medicine being injected directly into the eye cavity, allowing the effect of the medicine to be localised and concentrated in the eye.

Many eye diseases are associated with diabetes - a common condition among Singaporeans, with one in nine residents being diabetic.

About a third of these patients will have some form of diabetic retinopathy, which threatens their vision and would require the IVT injection.

The demand for injections at TTSH has increased, with 6,508 jabs administered last year, compared with 528 in 2013.

Based on current trends, this number is set to increase.

However, the hospital's eye clinic is unable to meet the growing demand if the shots are administered by doctors alone.

Training nurses to do the procedure will translate into less waiting time for patients, which is currently one to two weeks.

"I was really excited to be given the opportunity to learn something new, and I believe that taking on bigger responsibilities is a trend for nurses to go into for the future," said Ms Chow Peck Foong, 59, a senior staff nurse.

The Singapore National Eye Centre said nurse-administered IVT injections are a "very new initiative" which it does not do.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Eye jabs by nurses free up docs' time'. Print Edition | Subscribe