Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the Institute of Mental Health Nurses' Day Celebrations, 26 July 2013

Good morning,
Mr Soh Gim Teik, Chairman of IMH Institutional Committee,
Dr Chua, CEO IMH,
DN Samantha Ong,
Nurses, staff and guests.

1. I am delighted to be here today to celebrate Nurses’ Day with you, particularly since this year also marks the 85th anniversary of this hospital.

2. All of you have good reasons to be proud of your achievements. The hospital has come a long way since its beginnings in 1928. The mental healthcare landscape in Singapore has gone through a major transformation over the years. From the time of the old Woodbridge Hospital to the present, we have made much progress in terms of the treatment and care provided to those who suffer from mental health conditions.

3. The move from the old Woodbridge Hospital to IMH’s present campus in 1993 signalled a key change from a custodial to a more therapeutic model of care. And since the National Mental Health Blueprint was rolled out in 2007, we have invested some $180 million in strengthening mental health services, ensuring that mental healthcare is made available not just in hospitals and specialist clinics, but also in the community.

4. While the government provides support with funds and infrastructure, changes cannot come about without the on-going hard work of our dedicated healthcare professionals and administrators. And nurses, who are the backbone of the healthcare system, certainly play a key role in this transformation.

5. In every hospital, nurses form the largest pool of staff providing direct patient care. Nurses not only care for the patients, they also interact closely with their families. This work can be particularly challenging in the mental health setting, where the patients and their families may not always understand what they are going through. As professional caregivers to this vulnerable group of patients, mental health nurses must be even more patient and empathetic. You can bring immediate sense of security to our patients by your presence and by providing them the therapeutic milieu. In the community too, nurses play a crucial role. For instance, nurses are a key part of IMH’s Community Mental Health Team that provides home-based psycho-social rehabilitation in the community. This makes care more accessible and less stigmatising, which is especially important in mental health.

6. I am heartened to note that nurses at IMH are living up to this challenge. I am aware that many of you have won numerous awards, including the President’s Award for Nurses, Healthcare Humanity Award, and Nurses’ Merit Award. Last year, Ms Poh Chee Lien, the Assistant Director of Nursing and Education at IMH became the second youngest ever recipient to win the prestigious President’s Award for Nurses, for her outstanding contributions to nursing, such as setting up a centre for mental health education, the first of its kind in Singapore. Also, just recently, five IMH nurses were awarded MOH Nurses’ Merit Award. IMH has also produced three Chief Nursing Officers for Singapore. This is a testament to the contributions of IMH nurses to the care of our patients. Well done!

7. As Singapore’s population grows and ages, nurses will play an even more important role. We will need more of our young Singaporeans to join the profession. At MOH, we are working to raise the profile of the nursing profession. We recently launched a multi-year campaign, “Care to Go Beyond” to increase the public awareness of the diverse and fulfilling work that nurses and allied health professionals do, to attract more people to join the healthcare sector. In fact, Dr. Xie Huiting1 and Mr Raveen Dev Ram Dev2 from IMH were also featured in this campaign. As nurses, you can also play a key role in influencing their decisions by sharing about your work and the various opportunities available. Do not be shy about telling others that you are a mental health nurse; instead educate them and give them insight into your work, and how fulfilling it can be.

8. In closing, I would like to commend the dedication and hard work of all nurses. You are in a very noble profession and have much to contribute. I wish you continued success and fulfilment in your work as you lead the way in mental health nursing for Singapore. I also hope that IMH will continue to grow as a leading institution for mental health not only locally, but also globally.

1Dr. Xie Huiting, a Senior Staff Nurse (SSN) at IMH, was featured in our CTGB Nursing Webisode 4 (Combining Science with the human touch), http://caretogobeyond.sg/nursing/ .

2Mr. Raveen Dev Ram Dev, a Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) at IMH, was featured in our CTGB Nursing TV advertisement, http://caretogobeyond.sg/nursing/ .

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