Nursing has always been Elaine Ng’s passion since she was a teen. Despite her parents’ initial objection, she became a registered nurse at the age of 20 years old and progressed on to a stellar nursing career. Elaine was part of the early cohorts of the University of Sydney at SIM. She recalled being excited about the course as there was no tertiary institution for nursing in Singapore then. Today, she is the Group Head of Nursing at IHH and remains as passionate about nursing. A nurse, a teacher, a community volunteer, Elaine wears many hats in the nursing field and community.
Please tell us about yourself and your career path after graduating.
I am married and a mother of two. One works as senior child protection officer and the other is an associate with a law firm.
I joined nursing at the age of 18 years. At that time, we were trained in the School of Nursing and I graduated with a certificate in nursing. In 1990, I embarked on a specialty course - a post basic certificate in critical care nursing. I started my career with Singapore General Hospital and left to join Changi General Hospital (CGH) in 1997 as it was a new hospital near my home.
After I graduated from my post basic course in 1990, I thought that would be my last academic study. So, when I heard about the nursing degree course offered by the University of Sydney at SIM, I was excited and tempted to study again. There was no tertiary institution till the University started their nursing degree courses in Singapore in the early 90’s. I was delighted and enrolled for the degree course. Nursing degree was not a criterion for promotion during my time. However, with the additional qualification which equipped me with the necessary knowledge and skills, it did help me with my career progression.
I was sponsored by CGH for the nursing degree. After graduation, I was promoted to be a nurse educator. In 2003, I was honoured to be chosen to be one of the pioneers for the Masters in Nursing at National University of Singapore. My last position was Deputy Director of Nursing in CGH.
With my career progression, I was recognised for many awards too from Efficiency Medal Award, Humility Award, President’s Award for Nurses to Women of the Year award under the Health and Wellness category.
What sparked your interest in nursing?
Nursing has always been my passion though my parents wanted me to be a teacher. I faced family’s objection and I had to ask my brother to secretly take the application form for me to apply (no internet nor computer in the early 80s).
Many think that nursing is a “dirty” job and my parents thought why should a young lady work three shifts and clean the bodies of women and men.
However, I have always wanted to be a nurse since secondary school. During my school days, I was a volunteer at a children home, an old folk home and the old Tan Tock Seng Hospital. I enjoyed volunteering and counted my blessings to able to help others. It gave me a sense of fulfilment. Helping others is also helping myself. Nursing has taught me many things. Besides the usual health issues and preventions, nursing has also developed my character and values. I learnt to appreciate and treasure lives.
I became a registered nurse when I was 20 years old. Until now, I am still very passionate about what I am doing. Nursing allows you to contribute to the society, it also allows you to care for your family and those around you. Once a nurse; forever a nurse.
Could you tell us about your current job role?
I have more than 35 years of healthcare experience in government, restructured and private healthcare settings. I also enjoying teaching – I was an Adjunct Associate Professor for Alice Lee Clinical Nursing Studies for 10 years and I am also a local lecturer teaching nursing degree study.
Currently, I am the Group Head of Nursing, Senior Vice President, IHH. Under the IHH Organisation, we have 80 hospitals in 10 countries. As Group Head of Nursing, I am responsible and accountable for the strategic direction of patient care practices and standards, patient safety, clinical outcomes, patient, employee and physician satisfaction, and the overall coordination of nursing professional standards across IHH Healthcare. My current role requires me to travel frequently to all the countries under IHH. I play the leadership roles in strategic planning and decision making. I am also involved in doctor engagement, business planning, pricing, branding, procurement, licensing, audit and accreditation. In my nursing career, I have gone through all the career tracks, from research, clinical, education and now, the administration track.
Can you share 1 to 2 success stories in your current job where you had to overcome a challenge?
Many people perceive that private hospital organisations are only money-driven. They are unaware of the values we provide e.g. short waiting time for surgery, attended by specialists (instead of junior doctors), nursing care and the nice environment etc.
To me, there is no difference being a nurse in the public or private sector. We care for our patients the same way. In fact, in the private healthcare, due to the smaller number of beds, we are able to provide more holistic care to our patients.
We believe quality drives revenue. If we consistently deliver the excellent care to patients with good clinical outcomes and patients’ experiences; patients will be willing to pay for the value they get.
In 2015, we have a competition for the nurses to think of what the value of nurses are. We came up with the concept - Thinking nurses with heart, driven by the passion to make a difference in patients’ lives through excellent care.
Our three tenets were Professionalism, Expertise and Advocacy.
Professionalism - Establishing caring and therapeutic relationship with team members and patients, actively and collaboratively.
Expertise - Practising lifelong learning and evidence-based knowledge and skills for the delivery of efficient, safe and quality care (Now, nursing degree is one of the criterions for promotion).
Advocacy -Advocating for patients’ rights and empowering them in the process in the best interest of patients’ health.
Currently, this Nursing Philosophy has been rolled out to all our hospitals and nurses wear the badge on their uniform to consistently remind them of the values.
The other challenge is to ensure that our nurses are well developed and trained in their personal and professional growth. We must balance between training and manpower needs at clinical setting.
To overcome the challenge, I have to speak up for their training budget, developed training roadmap for different grades of staff and developed structured training plans. To date, I am happy that nurses have the opportunity to attend internal and external courses and conferences; local and overseas.
As a big organisation with 80 hospitals, nurses can also deepen their expertise through clinical attachment outside the country. There are many opportunities for their growth.
Any wisdom to share with those who aspire to progress in their career?
I am considered as one of the “blessed “ones as my career progression has been very smooth. I am grateful to be treated well by the various organisations and mentored by many good bosses. I had many opportunities to work with many different bosses and they were all very nice to me. Every leader has their own leadership style. I can adapt to them. Most importantly, I always tell myself to be myself – to be open and sincere. To stay focused and not to lose track of the journey. One must also have the courage to speak up. We can agree and disagree but we cannot be rude. We can be nice but firm.
To move up the career, do not ask what the organisation can give you but think of what you can bring to the organisation. I always tell my staff to “Do your best and God will do the rest”.
Posted online 10 Jul 2023.
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