Much has changed in health care in terms of medical advances and technology since the days of Florence Nightingale. What has not changed is the human touch which heals the spirit often broken by illness, pain and suffering.
To mark Nurses’ Day this year, this article spotlights a member of the nursing profession from the Intermediate and Long-Term Care (ILTC) sector whose job is a vocation.
Ms Low Mui Lang’s passion for what she does is evident. The 53-year-old executive director of the Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home says simply: “It is my calling to help those in need.”
In 2010, she received the President’s Award for Nurses, which recognises three nurses every year for their commitment, professionalism and dedication to excellent nursing care.
Ms Low rose through the ranks, starting as an assistant nurse in 1977. Before joining Peacehaven in 2001, she worked in a hospital.
Comparing the experiences, she says: “In the hospital, patients get well and go home after a few days. Here in the nursing home, they stay longer. I call them my ‘residents’, and we provide much more than just custodial care.
“You get to know the residents beyond their ailments. You come to know and understand their feelings and their fears. Without their saying a word, we can tell whether they are happy or sad.
“The care we provide here tends to be much more intimate. For this reason, I find it immensely satisfying working in a nursing home.”
Ms Low and her multidisciplinary team comprising a resident doctor, nurses, social worker and the pastoral team work closely to keep the residents as well as possible despite their ailing health.
The nurses are trained to look out for any signs of deterioration in the health of the residents and take appropriate action immediately. If not, given their already frail condition, any deterioration will make their medical condition more complex.
Ms Low is an advocate of the rehabilitative model of care and has a team of therapists on hand at the nursing home to help residents learn to use their limbs again.
In 2010, she worked with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to develop the Singapore Programme for Integrated Care for the Elderly (Spice), an innovative care model adapted from the United States-based Programme for All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly (Pace).
The programme provides an alternative solution for frail elderly people who might need to be admitted to a nursing home, enabling them to receive care in the community instead, with the support of patient-centric services covering medical, nursing, allied health and personal care.
Spice was piloted at the Salvation Army Bedok Multi-Service Centre, a day rehabilitation centre which Ms Low also oversees, and has since been replicated in another centre in the western part of the country.
For Ms Low, one of her challenges at Peacehaven is thinking up activities for her 400 residents, who range in age from 40 to over 100. They also have different physical and mental abilities.
Residents are kept busy with art and craft projects, rehabilitative therapy and even shopping trips to the supermarket.
“Whatever their medical or mental condition, we recognise that they still have value in life. Although they are living here in a nursing home, we want to make their lives as joyful and as dignified as possible. We want to give them quality of life,” says Ms Low.
And her wish for them is that “when the time comes, they will die well — that they will walk until they pass on in life”.