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(From left) National Kidney Foundation deputy director of nursing Pauline Tan Chwee Khim, SNEC director of nursing Loh Huey Peng and TTSH chief nurse Hoi Shu Yin. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Initially, Dr Loh Huey Peng, the nursing director at the Singapore National Eye Centre, did not like her job as a nurse.
“It was just a job for me,” said Dr Loh, now 54, who joined the eye centre 26 years ago.
It took her about a decade to finally love what she started out doing.
In the beginning, she said, the pay was too low, and it was a lot of hard work. But looking back, Dr Loh credits the hard work she had put in as the foundation for her achievements.
On Friday, she was one of three nursing leaders who received the President’s Award for Nurses – the highest accolade in Singapore’s nursing profession – from President Halimah Yacob in a ceremony at the Istana.
The other two recipients are Dr Hoi Shu Yin, Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s (TTSH) chief nurse, and Ms Pauline Tan Chwee Khim, the deputy director of nursing at the National Kidney Foundation.
They each received a trophy, a certificate signed by the President and a $10,000 cash prize that can be used for their professional and personal development.
Dr Loh’s advice to young nurses is: “Don’t give up so easily, always value what you’ve learnt, and add value to what you have learnt.”
She said she discovered that she was good in communications and empathising with others, and started to find meaning in her work. “That’s when I started to give,” she said of her profession.
In 2020, when Dr Loh was deployed to manage a Covid-19 facility at the Singapore Expo, she had to work with a new and diverse group of nurses.
“How could we work so well together within just one week?” she said. “The answer is how you treat your people and the (work) culture. That’s what I learnt at the Expo, because the processes were changing on a daily basis... and there was no vaccine yet.”
One of the things she did was to hold huddles with the nurses to understand their concerns, even if their needs did not reflect those of the majority, she said.
That experience was a turning point for her, as it changed her management style.
“Previously, I was more rigid,” the mother of two admitted.
For Ms Tan, who is married with two children, working in the community allowed her to build relationships and connect with her patients.
“I found my passion in caring for kidney failure patients. It is not just a job, it is about journeying with a friend and helping them to find the meaning of life while they are undergoing treatment,” said the 58-year-old.
In 2020, Ms Tan initiated and spearheaded the Renal Rehabilitation task force to introduce a proper programme for the patients, to help them take better care of their condition.
At TTSH, Dr Hoi, who is 45 and married with three children, had collected various other awards, including a Public Administration Medal (Gold, Covid-19) in 2022 for her contribution to Singapore’s fight against the coronavirus.
During the pandemic, she led and guided more than 3,600 nurses. She also oversaw the conversion of two floors of the hospital into Covid-19 wards to accommodate the rise in patient numbers when cases spiked, among other tasks.
The three recipients have all contributed to Singapore’s fight against Covid-19 in one way or another. Ms Tan, for instance, visited the 700 renal nurses at all 41 dialysis centres across Singapore during the pandemic.
The President’s Award for Nurses began in 2000, and has since recognised 93 nurses for sustained outstanding performance and contributions. It is open to nurses and midwives from healthcare institutions in the public, private and community care sectors, as well as the educational institutions.