The call came when senior staff nurse Evelyn Qua was having dinner with her in-laws on a Saturday evening.
A terminally-ill patient, who did not have much time left, wanted to die at home, but the nurses on duty were unsure on what to do. Worried, they called Ms Qua and she rushed back to her workplace, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), to help them even though it was her day off.
She helped her colleagues to make the necessary arrangements, such as calling the ambulance services, to enable the patient to be discharged safely and quickly.
For her dedication, the 32-year-old senior staff nurse was given the Healthcare Humanity Award during a ceremony held at Matrix@Biopolis on Monday (Apr 27).
Ms Qua was among 62 healthcare professionals who received the award, which honours healthcare staff who have gone beyond their job scope to help others. Out of the 62 award recipients, six received the Honourable Mention Awards from President Tony Tan. The six received S$2,000 in cash each, while the other 56 were given S$1,500 in cash each. All the winners also received a silver medallion each.
Of the incident, Ms Qua said: “I just focused on what I had to do, and that’s to make sure that no matter what, the patient gets home alive so he can have his last wish, which is to die at home with his family.”
She chose to work in palliative care after witnessing how a palliative team helped her cancer-stricken grandmother in her last days.
Ms Qua recalled: “She was suffering from a lot of difficult symptoms — a lot of breathlessness because of the nature of cancer.” Thanks to the efforts of the palliative team, “my granny died in a very comfortable manner, surrounded by loved ones”, she said.
This year’s awards were expanded to recognise volunteers from non-profit community organisations, two from Healthserve and one from Franciscan Missionary of the Divine Motherhood.
Another award recipient, Ms Yeoh Lin Dai, 52, is a volunteer with the Communicable Disease Centre at TTSH, where she befriends HIV/AIDS patients. These patients are usually angry and upset, Ms Yeoh said, so she tries to motivate and encourage them.
The TTSH senior staff nurse explained: “Some are in the process of denial, maybe a lot of anger. Some even throw their frustrations at you. But that’s understandable, because we might not ever understand what they’re going through.”
Ms Yeo added: “At the end of the day, when they smile at me, I feel very happy. It motivates me to continue what I’m doing.”