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Celebrating Nurses
31 August 2020

What do most of us know, beyond our general understanding of nursing as a noble profession? This Nurses’ Day, I reflect on the things HCA nurses endure out of love for their patients, families and those around them.

By Paul Bashyam, HCA Medical Social Worker

Nurses play a significant role in the realm of healthcare. Their duties include caring for patients, administering medication, and collaborating with a multi-disciplinary team to enhance patient care. In Singapore, every 1st of August marks the celebration of Nurses’ Day. According to local lecturer Devin Jeyathurai, this date was chosen as it represents the start of the development of nursing in Singapore.

In settings such as hospitals, nurses usually work in shifts, and care for patients in the wards. Often, they also work with doctors and other allied health practitioners, such as occupational therapists and social workers, to provide holistic care for patients. 

Superheroes in Pink

However, at HCA Hospice Care, nurses are more than just nurses – they are superheroes. They often brave bad weather, upset family members of patients and irate taxi drivers, just to care for their patients.

A typical day for them entails making house visits to various patients’ homes. This usually starts in the morning and can end by late afternoon and in some cases, in the evenings.

After working closely with them on a regular basis as a Medical Social Worker, I have come to see the tenacity in our nurses. On top of balancing work and family commitments, they often have to overcome complex situations while managing difficult emotions.

I recall how on one home visit, we had to convince an elderly patient to take a bath. He had not bathed in five years and was totally repulsed by the idea of taking a bath. He insisted that it would be sufficient with just a change of clothes. I can still recall the foul stench of his unwashed body, wafting from the very corridor of his apartment.

While my medical social worker colleagues and I were racking our brains over this perplexing situation for some elaborate ways to convince him to bathe, our nurses came up with a very creative suggestion. They suggested for the patient to bathe in his clothes. So, his clothes would get washed while he was wearing them.

The patient agreed, thinking it was a wonderful idea as he would not have to do laundry. Thus, when the whole team jumped in to assist him, I remember the bath water was turned a murky shade of green. But the patient felt so refreshed after his bath.

On another home visit, I remember how our nurse comforted a dying mother while she was lamenting about her life and could not accept that her illness was terminal. The nurse remained by her bedside, comforting the patient even as she was shouting and cursing. This gesture calmed her down and helped her realise that her family and the HCA team was there for her.

Values Know No Bounds

Throughout my time in HCA, I have learnt so much from the nurses that I have worked with. I am reminded of our organisation’s core values of Compassion, Professionalism and Respect.

Compassion - Journeying with our patients with care and understanding: pacing them through their last moments of life.

Our nurses’ compassionate attitudes towards our patients always remind me that compassion comes from the heart. Even if you have a language barrier with the patient and family, it is the compassion that transcends all languages.

Professionalism - Providing quality end-of-life care to all patients.

During our nurses’ work with patients and families, the professionalism they display always reminds me that professionalism is not just about knowing your procedures. Instead, it is about being steadfast in your values even when put under pressure.

Respect - Placing the needs of patients at the forefront of our services, according them the dignity every human deserves.

Besides respecting their patients, families and other healthcare professionals, our nurses hold respect for those they encounter in their daily work as well. Some of whom are taxi drivers, uncles and aunties at the hawker centres and many others.

This has shown me the importance of inculcating respect as a personal value.  

Thank you HCA nurses for being such a big part of my days at HCA Hospice Care. It is a blessing for us to serve our patients. At the same time, we gain a lot of experience and wisdom. Wishing all nurses, a Happy Nurses’ Day!