The Perfect Sister
Her World Singapore|December 2020
Assistant director of Nursing, Nursing Administration, Advanced Practice Nurse, Khoo Teck Puat – National University Children’s Medical Institute, National University Hospital
COMFORTING, EARNEST, AND REASSURING

Imagine being diagnosed with a new and unknown virus when you’re all alone in a foreign country, miles away from your family and loved ones. All you know is that the infection can be fatal. That was the scary situation that many migrant workers here found themselves in.

For those who were sent to the community care facility (CCF) at Tuas South, they were relieved to have found a soothing, reassuring voice who told them that they were in good hands and well on the road to recovery.

“It’s good that you are here. It means that your symptoms are mild, or that you’re recovering. Take this time to rest,” the voice said.

That voice belongs to Sister Katherine.

Always ready to help

In April, at the height of Covid-19 infections in Singapore, the chief nurse at NUH (National University Hospital) asked Katherine Leong if she was willing to step up and do Covid-19 response work. The 49-year-old assistant director of Nursing, Nursing Administration, had no idea what she was signing up for at that time. She had just one question: “How can I help?”

That’s Katherine, or Sister Kat (as she’s known among nursing staff due to her seniority) in a nutshell – always the first in line to contribute to a cause for the greater good.

Katherine, along with a six-member core group from National University Health System, went on to set up a 1,622-bed CCF at Tuas South CCF, modelled after the one at Singapore Expo. It was to house migrant workers who tested positive for Covid-19, but had mild symptoms, or were asymptomatic. Taking a leaf from Expo CCF, the team referred to the migrant workers as “brothers”. Katherine had hoped that this term would foster a sense of familiarity between them and the healthcare team. She would even station herself at the entrance to greet the migrant workers who were checking in.

“We just wanted to make the experience less stressful for our brothers,” she explains, emphasising that she wanted them to know that they would be properly taken care of.

The experienced nurse even went a step further and tried to engage them in their native language, says Dr Paul Zhao Songbo, senior consultant, Department of Ophthalmology at NUH.

“Some were obviously quite nervous and lost, and she tried to alleviate that with a warm smile and a reassuring greeting. As a nurse, she truly has a heart for her patients, regardless of their background,” he adds.

From factory to a Covid-19 facility

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