SINGAPORE – In 10 years as an infectious diseases nurse tending to patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Ms Ang Ching Ching was used to tragedy.
“I could have three patients dying in one shift,” said Ms Ang, 41, who started her nursing career at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in 1997. “There would be at least one dying every other week.”
Yet she realised that her training did not prepare her to help those at the end of their lives.
“I did not know how to give them the comfort they needed,” said Ms Ang, who decided to shift to palliative, or end of life, care.
In 2010 she became the hospital’s first advanced practice nurse in palliative care, and has played a pivotal role in setting up TTSH’s palliative nursing care services, as well as spearheading a home-hospice care service.
For her contributions, she was one of six nurses who received the President’s Award for Nurses this year, bringing the total number of award recipients to 67 since it began in 2000.
The award, given out by President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday (July 25) at The Istana, is considered the highest accolade for the nursing profession and recognises outstanding individuals in that field.
Though palliative care is emotionally draining – Ms Ang said she cries every few months – she finds it intensely rewarding to fulfil patients’ last wishes.
Another recipient was the deputy director of nursing at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), Ms Goh Meh Meh.
When Ms Goh joined the hospital in 1984 it had around 20 operating theatres and 25 years later that number had increased to 35. But they were still using a manual system to track the thousands of sterile instruments needed for operations.
Ms Goh– whose entire 45-year career has been in nursing – was instrumental in digitising the hospital’s procedures.
She also speaks at local and overseas conferences, and volunteers in countries like Myanmar and Indonesia to treat patients with cleft lips or palates.
“I’m still very passionate as an operating theatre nurse. It’s where I feel I can be the most useful,” said the 61-year-old, who leaves on another voluntary trip to Cambodia in two weeks.
“I’m very grateful, happy and privileged to receive this award.”