The world of community nursing is diverse but here's how Home Nursing Foundation’s Director of Nursing, Chan Mei Mei, is driving change and strengthening the continuity of care.
Chan Mei Mei began her nursing career as a staff nurse at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) in 1984. After spending 30 years in various acute care institutions, she shifted gears and joined the Community Care sector in 2014 to fulfil an inner calling to contribute to the industry. Mei Mei credits her mother for her advice that the skills acquired in nursing could go a long way. Hear from Mei Mei as she shares with us how she is working to grow Home Nursing Foundation’s (HNF) home care capabilities to provide better care and cater to the growing needs and demands of the community.
mosAIC: We understand that you started your career as a Staff Nurse at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the National Cancer Centre (NCC). What made you switch from acute care to the Community Care sector?
Three things prompted me to make the switch to the Community Care sector.
First, the community nursing landscape is more vibrant. Compared with hospitals, nurses and patients in the Community Care sector often know each other by name. This is because the relationship they share often goes beyond that of care provider and patient. Second, I was able to identify that home care would be a viable option to support ageing-in-place and I wanted to play a part in building its capabilities. With my background, I felt that I could contribute to the sector with my skill sets and experience in quality improvement, clinical management of patients, and leadership. Third, I felt that I had reached a saturation point in my career and I was eager to explore opportunities outside of the hospital setting.
mosAIC: Since making the switch to Community Care, what is your biggest takeaway?
My biggest takeaway thus far is seeing the need for the Community Care sector to constantly keep abreast of latest developments and adopt best practices within the public healthcare sector. There was an incident before, when a hospital needed to refer patients to us to perform Vacuum Therapy Dressings. However, we were unable to accept these referrals as our nurses weren’t trained in the technique then. Thankfully, leveraging on my familiarity in the acute care setting, we managed to work with a Regional Health System (RHS) to upskill our nurses. I journeyed with the nurses on a nine-month process to train them in this skillset. I am proud to say that with all my nurses now trained in Vacuum Therapy Dressings, HNF is ready to take in these referrals and patients can receive continuity of care in the Community Care setting.
It was a very fulfilling experience to be able to provide care to a wider range of seniors with different needs. Being able to find areas where we can provide better care and implement solutions to close these gaps — that is what keeps me motivated and excited in my field of work.
mosAIC: We understand that you chart the overall strategic direction for HNF’s home nursing services as the Director of Nursing. What was your personal goal when you took on this position and have you made strides in achieving that goal?
One of my personal goals was to integrate home care with a Regional Health System (RHS) to allow seamless care. To date, we have made progress in establishing partnerships with various health institutions like Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), Changi General Hospital (CGH), Jurong Health Systems (JHS), and National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), through multi-disciplinary rounding. With this partnership in place, we are able to better support our nurses and develop a more responsive system to integrate care and escalate patient-related issues in a more timely manner.
I would also like to embark on nursing research and quality improvement and I encourage my nurses to do the same. Leveraging on my past working relationship with SGH, we embarked on research to care for patients with home enteral tube feeding (to deliver nutrition directly to the stomach or small intestine). The article, titled Caring for patients on home enteral nutrition: Reported complications by home carers and perspectives of community nurses, was published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing in 2018. We are now on our second research collaboration with SGH and other collaborators to look into nutrition and wound care. These are the aspects of community nursing that make it exciting whilst providing nurses a chance to grow and expand their knowledge.
mosAIC: With the COVID-19 pandemic a major concern right now, what are some of the new policies and/or frameworks in place for home care services?
We have developed various action plans for home visits in accordance with the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) levels. This is to allow greater oversight of the workload, which will guide nurses in their decision making. In the case of a facility lockdown, we are developing a network of support as back-up to bring medical supplies to the nurses. Also, to ensure effective communication among employees who are off-site doing home visits, we use various platforms such as Skype and SMS blasts to help them stay connected.
mosAIC: Could you share a quote/advice for nurses who are keen to switch to the Community Care sector?
Start every day afresh and find strength in encouraging and motivating our patients and nurses alike. The spirit of community nursing is enriching and it stretches our potential to be critical thinkers who make the best decisions for our patients alongside other professionals.
The Community Care Nursing Leadership Programme (CCNLP) is a three- to five-year programme to groom the nursing leaders of tomorrow in the Community Care sector. Take your nursing passion further with CCNLP. Apply now at www.aic.buzz/GROW.