Two veterans among 100 recipients of this year's Nurses' Merit Award
Still dedicated to changing lives, even after all these years
In his 38 years in the mental health sector, Mr Koh Chee Meng has seen changes that make him happy.
Most notably, how patients are no longer stigmatised about being at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
It was different when he first started, said the assistant nurse clinician at IMH.
"People were ashamed to seek help... they were ashamed to be at IMH," he said.
Patients are more open to seeking treatment now, and people around them are also more accepting, Mr Koh added.
For his dedication over the years, Mr Koh was awarded the Nurses' Merit Award by the Ministry of Health yesterday.
He is one of 100 who received the annual award, which recognises nurses who display noteworthy and exceptional performance.
The 60-year-old completed his Bachelor of Science in nursing at La Trobe University in May.
The hardest part of being a mental health nurse is getting patients to open up, he said.
"We need them to talk to us about their problems, we need them to trust us, which is not easy. So this has always been a big challenge for me."
About five years ago, he met a patient who made the challenging days all worthwhile.
Mr Koh recalled: "When he came in, he was very angry and kept screaming for his family, who were overseas at the time."
After gradually gaining his trust, the patient complied with treatment and eventually recovered to be discharged.
"Seeing how he grew from when he first entered IMH encouraged me, it showed our efforts really changed his life," said Mr Koh.
Another award recipient was nurse manager Letchimi Muthusamy.
The 61-year-old said the role of a nurse has greatly evolved since she started in 1977.
"(Nurses) now play a much bigger role and are trained to conduct all kinds of tests. We even provide family planning consultations that used to be done by doctors only," she said.
Now the nurse lead for the Women's Health Service Community of Practice under the National University Polyclinics, Ms Letchimi works to increase the uptake of pap smear and human papillomavirus tests as well as other chronic diseases.
And she has no plans to retire any time soon.
She said: "I am honoured to win this award. I want to keep going and hopefully pass my knowledge to the future generation of nurses to come."
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