While many were enjoying their Lunar New Year holidays at the start of the year, Nurse Educator (NE) Anuradha Ramasamy was urgently activated to help conduct N95 mask fittings for staff at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). “It was the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fear was on our minds as not much was known about this new virus,” NE Anuradha recounted, adding that she had been through a similar episode more than a decade ago during the height of SARS. “I feel more prepared this time round and understand the various measures such as infection control processes better. The years of mask fitting training have also prepared me well for my role.”
Yet, the initial crowd of staff who turned up for the mask fittings surprised her. It included staff from across the campus – from doctors, nurses and ancillary staff, to campus bus drivers and kitchen staff.
During the first few days, NE Anuradha and fellow staff volunteers endured tiring shifts and complaints from staff as the surge in numbers that needed to have their masks fitted ended up with long waiting time for everyone. Besides mask fitting, NE Anuradha had to also teach staff on the correct techniques of donning and doffing (removing) their N95 masks.
As a Nurse Educator first and foremost, NE Anuradha was more than aware of the importance of communicating well, particularly during the mass mask fitting sessions, “To teach effectively, you must be very clear, and explain the rationale behind things.” Besides clear articulation, she shared the need to understand the audience whom she would be training, “You need to know who you are speaking to and communicate with them through the ways that they understand.”
NE Anuradha (right) is also tasked to help with mask fitting sessions at NHCS.
Recalling an encounter of a staff who was visibly fuming in the queue, and was assigned to be fitted by NE Anuradha, she shared, “Even though the staff was already impatient, I informed him patiently what I will need to do to ensure his mask is fitted well, instead of rushing to finish the job.” The staff was eventually calmed by her clear explanation and listened to her instructions well.
Good interpersonal and observational skills are as important as NE Anuradha had to relay information to different groups of staff, “Unlike us, our non-medical colleagues may not be as clear about mask fitting. We have to ensure that they understand our instructions clearly for their safety as well as that of our staff and patients.”
Her patience, despite the long hours of standing and working, did not go unnoticed as many staff expressed their appreciation to her.
Empower through education
Due to the pandemic, the training programmes that NE Anuradha had been accustomed to teaching, had been reduced or re-adapted to remote synchronous training, “Initially, it was a challenge to get used to this new way of teaching. I gradually adapted after more hands-on on the online platforms and engagement with the learners.”
Learning goes on for her students as NE Anuradha (pictured on the laptop screen) conducts her teachings remotely. Face-to-face training are now conducted in small groups, with strict adherence to guidelines on safe distancing, and disinfection of the environment and equipment, for staff safety. “I am more vigilant now and would assess my trainees on their infection prevention practices during our training sessions,” she shared, emphasising that a positive mindset about the new normal helped her course participants to adapt to the new way of learning as well.
On top of her busy work and family schedule, NE Anuradha would also set aside time for her learning - studying for her master’s degree. While her days may occasionally be overwhelming, she had these useful tips on balancing work commitments to share, “Always take one day at a time. Most importantly, keep yourself updated with what is going on around you,” citing the campus Routine Instructions as useful in updating her on new work processes.
Another important factor towards work life wellness for NE Anuradha was the positive and kind support from her colleagues, “There is definitely a sense of camaraderie. It is very heartening when I bump into colleagues and senior leaders who would ask me how I’m coping and would wish me well. This keeps me going!”
NE Anuradha is NHCS’ representative in SingHealth Nurses’ Day 2020 campus visuals. Keep a lookout for her as you walk around the campus!
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