Thursday 26 July 2012

President’s Award for Nurses 2012: Three receive the nation's top award for nurses

By Melissa Pang, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2012

A LEUKAEMIA-STRICKEN boy's simple gesture of love for his mother, who had a headache, convinced a student nurse that her calling was in oncology.

Remembering that incident now, 19 years later, Ms Lian Siew Bee said: 'He was very ill. Yet he was more worried about his mother, who needed some painkillers.'

She added: 'The little scene showed me just how much care and support cancer patients and their families need. It assured me that oncology was where I could contribute.'

Now 42, the assistant director of nursing and an advanced practice nurse at Singapore General Hospital has done that - and also stood out enough in her field to be named one of this year's three winners of the President's Award for Nurses. The award is the nation's highest accolade for the profession.

Ms Lian, along with Ms Teresa Ng Ruey Pyng, 47, a senior nurse clinician at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), and Ms Poh Chee Lien, 37, a senior nurse educator at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), received the honour from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday.

Each of the winners was presented with a trophy, a certificate and $6,000 for professional and personal development.

Ms Lian has gone beyond looking after cancer patients. She also undertakes research.

In one study, a team she led found green tea to be a good alternative to antibiotic powder wash for cleaning the infected tumour wounds of cancer patients.

Ms Poh, the youngest female nurse to win the award, said that her passion and curiosity for mental health has kept her at IMH for 17 years.

In her time there, she went from looking after the mentally ill to developing training programmes for her colleagues.

Few would believe that she had initially given herself only a year at IMH.

She had not been keen on joining the hospital because she wanted to spend a year as a generalist before specialising.

'There has been a lot to learn. When I decided on nursing as a career, I just wanted to help people. Later, I realised it's not just about looking after their medical needs, but caring for them holistically,' said the mother of three.

Looking beyond her patients' breast tumours clinched the award for Ms Ng, of KKH's Breast Department.

Her inability to nurse her father, who was stricken with liver cancer, back to health was what put her on the path to caring for cancer patients. She started support groups to encourage and educate those diagnosed with the illness. She considers her work in helping patients and families to come to terms with their diagnosis and to accept treatment the most important part of her job.

'When our patients recover and become counsellors for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, they tend to pay it forward and end up helping more people in need. That really heartens me,' she said.

The winners of the President's Award for Nurses were picked by a panel comprising the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, the Chief Nursing Officer and board members of public institutions.

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