Having spent 10 years as an infectious diseases nurse tending to patients with the human immunodeficiency virus, Ms Ang Ching Ching was used to tragedy.
"I could have three patients dying in one shift," recalled Ms Ang, 41, who started her nursing career at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in 1997. "There would be at least one dying every other week."
Yet, she realised that her training did not prepare her to help those at the end of their lives.
"I did not know how to give them the comfort they needed," said Ms Ang, who decided to shift to palliative, or end-of-life, care.
In 2010, Ms Ang, who is single, became the hospital's first advanced practice nurse in palliative care.
Since then, she has played a pivotal role in setting up TTSH's palliative nursing care services and also in spearheading a home-hospice care service.
She was one of six nurses who received the President's Award for Nurses this year, bringing the total number of award recipients to 67 since it began in 2000.
The award, given out by President Halimah Yacob at the Istana yesterday, is considered the highest accolade for the nursing profession and recognises outstanding individuals in the field.
Though palliative care is emotionally draining - Ms Ang said she cries every few months - she finds it intensely rewarding to fulfil the patients' last wishes.
Another award recipient at the ceremony, which was also attended by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, was Ms Goh Meh Meh, deputy director of nursing at Singapore General Hospital.
When Ms Goh joined the hospital in 1984, it had around 20 operating theatres. This number increased to 35 a quarter-century later.
But the theatres were still using a manual system to track the thousands of sterile instruments needed for operations.
Ms Goh, whose entire 45-year career has been in nursing, was instrumental in digitising the hospital's procedures. The 61-year-old, who is married with three children, also speaks at local and overseas conferences, and does volunteer work in countries such as Myanmar and Indonesia to treat patients with cleft lips or palates.
"I'm still very passionate as an operating theatre nurse. It's where I feel I can be the most useful," said Ms Goh, who will leave on a volunteer trip to Cambodia soon.
"I'm very grateful, happy and privileged to receive this award."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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