Thursday, August 09, 2012

Reflections on National Day and Nurses' Day

Reflections on Singapore’s National Day and Nurses’ Day : Strength in diversity

It is timely and poignant to reflect about National Day (9th Aug)  and Nurses’ Day (1st Aug) together as these are, to me, inextricably inter-twined.

I sense disparate forces and interests threatening to tear the Singapore fabric apart at the seams even as we debate immigration policies and it may be useful to look at the nurses in our hospitals for an analogy.

Nurses’ Day

In all public and private hospitals, although there is a core of Singaporean-born nurses, it is no exaggeration to say that without foreign born nurses (many of whom have taken up Singapore citizenship), it is impossible to maintain the high standard of care that many of us have taken for granted.

Nurses (local and foreign-born) are unheralded heroes that ensure doctors’ orders are carried out to the exact schedule and dosage; they are the first to alert doctors when your pulse or skin tone signals an impending complication; their warm touch assure you when you lay on the trolley on the way to the operating suite and their caring eyes tell you that you are not alone when you are battling your way back to health.

It matters less that these nurses speak Queen’s English (none do) or versions laced with Singlish, Tagalog, Burmese or  Putonghua but more that they conduct themselves as professionals as befit modern-day Florence Nightingales.

National Day

Even as Singapore celebrates its 47th year of nationhood, let us not forget that Singaporeans are not all born in Singapore. In the early years, Singaporeans hailed from British Malaya, India and Ceylon and China. (My late father was from China and my mother is a Chinese born in Hawaii). More recent naturalized Singaporeans have also come from our other ASEAN neighbors.

Even as Singapore rolls back its open-door immigration policy in response to electoral setbacks to the ruling party, let us remember those foreigners who have chosen to stay, who have decided to be one of “us” by putting their shoulders to the wheel. They should not be made to feel ostracized or that they are the cause of all of Singapore’s woes.

All Singaporeans should have the generosity of heart to help them integrate just as many of our forefathers have been helped.

Just as foreign-born nurses have been a blessing for our healthcare system, diversity of Singaporeans should be viewed in a positive light and welcomed.

Integration will take time and may even be painful, more so for these foreigners who live and work amongst us, often in fear.  

Wishing all a Happy National Day,

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan