Singapore celebrates Nurses’ Day today and in 2020 this year, it’s a whole lot more special. As we face a worldwide pandemic, we realize more than ever the importance of nurses who have served and those who are still serving at the frontlines at community care facilities, supporting our nation’s fight against Covid-19.
For this Nurses’ Day Special, we’re interviewing Homage Care Specialist Lily Teh, on how she stumbled into the world of nursing and stayed on ever since, for 30 years and counting.
1. Tell us about yourself!
Lily: I grew up like any other kid—I enjoyed spending time in fun activities but not studies. At the age of 19, I took up a nursing opportunity as a way to study less but slowly fell in love with it. Now, looking back almost 40 years later, I realised nursing is not so much about what you study, but how you care. I am glad to have taken that leap of faith and pursued nursing as it proved to be a defining moment in my life.
My experience as a nurse nurtured me into becoming who I am today as I grew more empathetic and appreciative towards others especially towards my own family.
Over the course of my nursing journey, I fell in love with caring for people. Being able to care for patients and seeing their health improve day by day until they are discharged brought immense satisfaction which filled my heart with joy. Something I have transpired into my role as a Homage Care Specialist too. Working with families and care recipients and watching them feel and live better, is one of the most rewarding experiences.
2. How did you come to become a nurse?
Lily: It was an accidental stumble into the vocation of nursing. I was considering my education and career options when I came across a nursing programme offered in Singapore. I applied as it was novel and I was eager to see the world.
Moving from Malaysia to Singapore was a fresh and exciting journey. The first three years were spent in the nursing school with fellow young nurses-to-be.
Upon graduation I officially started my journey as a nurse in the Singapore General Hospital. It was there when I started to develop my passion and understood life’s fragility in the face of injuries and critical illnesses. Through the years, my nursing care has allowed me to experience and be trained in the different healthcare specialisations, from critical care, palliative care, urology and home nursing.
3. Why did you join Homage as a nurse?
Lily: After being in the nursing field for over 30 years, my role as a nurse had changed drastically. My focus was now shifted from caring for patients, to mentoring junior nurses. Whilst I played an important role in passing on wisdom to the younger generation of nurses, things did not feel the same and it didn’t fill me with the same level of purpose.
I needed a change and wanted to look for something where I could continue my passion, caring for patients while still being afforded flexibility for my own family time and Homage felt like the perfect fit. As a Care Professional (Care Pro) at Homage, I was not only able to continue to care for seniors but also deepen ties with the families and seniors.
Subsequently, I took up a full-time role at Homage as a Care Specialist, where I can be more involved in shaping the care plans together with the families and care recipients.
4. Describe a day in your life as a nurse.
Lily: As a Care Specialist, my day revolves around visits to the homes of the care recipients. These sessions, which are personalised care assessments, take place before care commences. I play a part in facilitating the discussion of the care needed, addressing the concerns of the senior and the family, advise on the care arrangement, and provide caregiving tips. Being nurse-trained complements the visits as I can easily assess the senior’s overall health and bodily functions while observing the home surroundings for potential dangers during care.
When needed, I will also support the nursing care for families, helping them with procedures such as wound care (surgical/bedsore), insertion of feeding tube (NGT), tracheostomy care, stoma care, injections and blood taking.
5. Share with us a caregiving story that particularly touched your heart.
Lily: One care recipient whom I cared for touched my heart in particular. She was an elderly lady in her 80s who used to be active and sociable. She would chit chat with friends and take strolls in the neighbourhood. A fall caused her to be wheelchair bound and she became more temperamental, where she would quarrel with her son who lives with her.
I cared for her across a few weeks, and witnessed her health and mood improving. Our care visits would consist of bringing her to the exercise corner for some walking and muscle strengthening exercises and to engage in past-times such as colouring, puzzles and word games. She was only able to walk a few steps initially but improved as days went by. Encouraged, she started to walk from the entrance to the shower room with support.
We chit-chatted a lot, besides assisting her activities of daily living like showering, toileting and transferring. She became relatively more cheerful and chatty at every visit I made, with lesser quarrels or complaints about her family members. She always requested for me as she was very comfortable and happy whenever I was with her. I also took videos and photos of her activities whilst with me and attached them into our visit summary as an update to the family, sent videos to her daughter to show how her condition has progressed. Her daughter who engages Homage service frequently now liaises with me on her well-being.
I am most touched when her daughter told me how happy her mother looked since my care and cognitively more engaged and happier. This I feel is very fulfilling as a nurse.
6. What are the options of caregiving in Singapore available?
Lily: There are a host of caregiving options available in Singapore.
For families and care recipients who prefer to remain at home, home healthcare providers such as Homage are available. They provide a suite of on-demand healthcare services, where trained local Care Professionals will visit your home to provide care for your loved one, when the need arises.
Home healthcare services can include:
- Personal care (Assist with Activities of daily living (ADL))
- Nursing care and procedures
- Therapy (Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy)
- Medical escort
- Home medical (house calls by doctors)
- Medication delivery
Apart from home care options, there are also community care facilities, such as daycare centres and nursing homes, which families can consider for the care of their loved ones.
7. What is one challenge about being a nurse that no one knows about?
Lily: One major challenge can arise when the care recipient’s family members are resistant towards the introduction of recommended care practices, while choosing to continue with the current routine which may not offer holistic support. They can resist practising or complying with the recommended care and insist on doing things in their own ways, which may be unhelpful to the patient or impedes recovery.
To illustrate, it can be: not using the correct walking aid, medication is not packed into a pill box (if a senior has dementia) and taking medicine on one’s own (with risk of medication error like overdosing). That is when I feel helpless as I know the right care method can speed up their recovery. And in times like these, I recognise the value of developing more patience and trust with the care recipient and their family member.
8. Has caregiving changed in times of the Covid-19 pandemic and how has it changed?
While care continues, COVID-19 has brought its own set of challenges for families, especially those with seniors and members managing chronic illnesses. Being able to support them as they navigate these challenging times through care delivery, has been a gratifying experience. As a Homage Care Specialist, I have ensured that families’ care expectations are met with utmost medical precautions and health standards while working together to develop a personal care plan for the care recipient. During these home visits, I have also been able to relieve the COVID-related stress and worries for some care recipients and family members.
As a nurse, I am more vigilant on minimising spread of infection to other patients, cross-infection, community and own family. Added precaution is practised with more frequent hand hygiene at every touch point e.g. after pressing on the bus buzzer or lift button. Other precautions include:
- Putting on PPE according to the heightened safety protocols (PPE consist of N95 masks, yellow gown, goggles, face shield, gloves and hand sanitiser).
- Change of face masks, wipe down of face and frequent strict hand hygiene (7 steps) after every home visit.
- Reminder to every care recipient and family including helpers on self-care, infection control, containment of spread, dietary advice and physical well-being besides wearing face masks when they have visitors or going outdoors, emphasising the importance of staying united and strong to overcome our national crisis.
When COVID-19 arrived on Singapore’s shores, I volunteered to be swab test-trained by TTSH’s nursing team to help in swab testing efforts in nursing homes. Over the months, I have also trained fellow Homage nurses on swab testing procedures to enable them to be involved better in COVID-19 response efforts.
9. Share with us a caregiving story in times of Covid-19.
I cared for a 92-year old lady who lives alone and has mobility issues. She had fractured her lower limb and needed care support. However, due to COVID-19, she was hesitant and held off engaging professional caregiving services.
Her family convinced her that a visiting nurse will wear the required PPE, follow strict hand hygiene to safeguard the senior from potential infection. The family also felt reassured when they observed that we, the Homage caregivers take every extra precaution like strict hand hygiene, wearing of PPE, keeping a safe distance at all times during home caregiving. We also educate and share infection control and necessary precautions to take amongst family members and the senior to minimise potential spread of COVID-19 or any other infection.
Since then, the family continues to engage Homage’s caregiving services and the senior is happy that she is being cared for despite the pandemic.
The After Clinic Hours team wishes all nurses a very Happy Nurses’ Day and a big thank you to those who have fought against Covid-19 to protect our nation, we are forever in your debt. <3