President's Award for Nurses

Her mantra in nursing: Make things 'safer, faster, and better' for patients

The Straits Times speaks to the five nurses who clinched the President's Award for Nurses this year. The award, the highest accolade for the profession in Singapore, recognises nurses who have shown sustained, outstanding performance and contributions to patient care delivery, education, research and administration.

Ms Kala conducts a briefing for her team from Woodlands Health Campus. PHOTO: WOODLANDS HEALTH CAMPUS

SINGAPORE - A firm believer in enhancing the role of nurses, Ms Kala Narayanasamy's personal mantra is to ask herself how she can make things "safer, faster, and better" for her patients.

Now the deputy director of nursing at the Woodlands Health Campus, Ms Kala retired a decade ago, but that did not last long, as she ended up returning to the profession which she joined in 1982.

"We come from a generation where we often stay in the same job throughout the years and, as a result, we grow roots in our career," said the 59-year-old.

Despite retiring in 2010, Ms Kala subsequently found herself taking on various roles at a number of healthcare institutions in the last decade, each one she views as a project and a "refreshing challenge".

The first stint came along a year after retirement, when she was asked by an ex-colleague to lead the nursing team at Ren Ci Nursing Home in 2011, where she took part in a project to improve oral hygiene among the elderly patients.

Ms Kala next landed herself the role of nurse educator at Tan Tock Seng Hospital in 2012, where she groomed and mentored younger nurses, hoping to shape them to be future leaders in nursing.

"I always tell my nurses that they must know everything about their patients during their eight-hour shift, and they must be able to offer each patient something 'different' - through the element of human touch," said Ms Kala.

Quoting Florence Nightingale, Ms Kala frequently reminds the nurses she mentors that "once the patients have no needs at all, that's when you know you've done a good job".

Aside from her role in nurturing the younger generation of nurses, Ms Kala also re-defined and streamlined existing work processes to improve the efficiency in hospitals, as this translates to a safer and better experience for nurses and patients alike.

Ms Kala is now working with other nursing leaders in the planning and implementation of the nursing workflow at Woodlands Health Campus. PHOTO: WOODLANDS HEALTH CAMPUS

For instance, Ms Kala helped patients to recover faster and shorten their length of hospital stay. To do so, she pushed her nurses to encourage early physiotherapy, which helped to instil greater confidence in patients.

In 2017, Ms Kala joined the Woodlands Health Campus, where she is leveraging her four decades of experience to develop the nursing services ahead of its opening in 2022.

She is now working with other nursing leaders in the planning and implementation of the nursing workflow, which aims to deliver a seamless and integrated experience of care for patients there.

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