Senior nurses Alicia Ng and Maria Harrison are
the backbone of the multidisciplinary team
that cares for patients in TTSH’s Intensive Care Unit
For Ms Ng (left) and Ms Harrison, seeing patients get well and truly out of danger
is the most rewarding part of their job in the ICU.
PHOTO: SAM YEO
The Straits Times (1 August 2016) - AS SENIOR nurses at Tan Tock Seng
Hospital’s (TTSH) Intensive Care
Unit (ICU), Ms Alicia Ng, 28, and Ms
Maria Harrison, 44, care for the most
severely ill patients who have to rely
on machines to take on basic bodily
For instance, the patients’ low brain
activity means something as simple
and natural as breathing has to be regulated
by respiratory equipment.
Not all patients are sedated, so those
who are alert and lucid can feel extremely
uncomfortable being unable
to move or breathe on their own.
But it is looking after patients in
their most vulnerable states that
makes Ms Ng and Ms Harrison’s jobs
rewarding and challenging at the
Ms Ng — who has worked at the
ICU for almost five years since graduating
with a nursing degree from the
National University of Singapore —
says the small nurse-to-patient ratio
meant having to monitor every single
detail of the patient and be able to
make critical decisions.
As for Ms Harrison, who has been
an ICU nurse for 17 years, her interest
stemmed from knowing she can
support patients who could not even
open their eyes or move.
She was a paediatric nurse at KK
Hospital before she pursued an advanced
diploma in neuroscience from
Nanyang Polytechnic in 1999.
Both of them point out that the duties
of a nurse go beyond merely monitoring
patients’ conditions. In fact, the
nurses take on a counselling role too.
“ICU patients are more critically
ill, thus more care is required. It also
means their family and loved ones
would be more anxious.
“In that sense, there are more demands
on us when it comes to taking
care of these patients and their
families,” says Ms Ng, who learnt to
speak tactfully to a patient’s family
when explaining medical conditions
or offering emotional support during
With all-round care needed for ICU
patients, nurses often have to work
in shifts, which can deter those who
are considering a nursing career,
as maintaining a work-life balance
would be challenging.
Sometimes, nurses get overwhelmed
with the sheer number of
cases coming through.
Also, the death of a patient, while
part of one’s medical career, is always
hard to bear with, even for veteran
medical staff. This is especially
so if the patient has shown signs of
“It does hit you when they suddenly
deteriorate,” says Ms Ng.
We see them at their
worst. When they
get better, they get
transferred to the High
we see them walk and
talk. Some of them
remember and thank
us. That makes it all
- MS MARIA HARRISON
Intensive Care Unit
Tan Tock Seng Hospital
The most rewarding part of being
an ICU nurse is seeing patients get
well and truly out of danger.
“We see them at their worst. When
they get better, they get transferred
to the High Dependency Unit.
“And eventually, we see them walk
and talk. Some of them remember
and thank us. That makes it all
worthwhile,” says Ms Harrison,
whose biggest lesson she has drawn
from her career is to never take the
simplest things for granted, and be
grateful for good health.
When Finance Minister Heng Swee
Keat recovered from a stroke in June,
he gave due credit to TTSH’s ICU
medical staff who cared for him in
what he believes were the toughest
weeks of his life.
Ms Ng and Ms Harrison are two
members of the team assigned to attend
to him while he was admitted.
“We would consistently care for him,
so we knew his case and we knew the
doctors well. Most of the time we were
rotated, so it was a privilege working
with the same few people and experiencing
that kind of rapport,” says Ms Ng.
Every medical staff member is a
team player to ensure smooth work
operations to facilitate the recovery
And providing the backbone of the
multidisciplinary team that cares for
patients in the ICU are nurses who
“dispense comfort and compassion,
and are the eyes and ears of patients
and families battling a critical illness
in ICU”, says Dr Wong Yu Lin, senior
consultant of TTSH’s Department of
Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.