A Nurse‘s Higher Calling And Paramount Duty

Around 1975, the Singapore TV station screened a Hong Kong serial show “ Man In The Net – 网中人.” Starring Carol Cheng and Chow Yun Fat, the programme  was extremely popular with viewers island-wide who  glued to their screens every evening .

During this time, an aunt was admitted in Singapore General Hospital for treatment. She stayed in a Class 3 ward which was not provided with TV sets at that time. She was very upset that she missed her favourite TV series every evening and asked to be discharged as soon as possible so that she could be home to watch her favourite show. To placate his mother, my cousin bought a portable TV set so that she could watch the programme. When the show was about to start  many other patients asked to see the show too.

Just then  a nurse came into the ward  and said my aunt was not allowed to have the TV set on and instructed  that the set must be switched off. There was a huff of disappointment expressed by all the patients who were enjoying the show. Many pleaded  that the TV be switched off only after the show. But, the nurse was adamant. The TV set must be switched off. Immediately!

The Writer who was in the ward visiting his auntie at that time, enquired with the nurse the reasons for her instruction. She pointed to a photo framed regulations  hanging on the wall ,  which listed  among other things that no electrical/electronic appliances was to be brought into the ward. It was signed by a hospital administrator. The nurse said she was only doing her duty to ensure the ward regulations were adhered to. She would not listen to any request for some flexibility.  She replied curtly“ The regulations are there to be complied with. If not, why have the regulations ? etc etc”.

The Writer asked to see the Sister-in-charge and hoped she could exercise some discretion. But she was no different, if not worse.  “ I am sorry. I heard you. I know all of you are very keen to watch the show. Me too.  But, rules are rules. They must be followed. Please switch off the TV now and remove it from the ward as soon as possible.”

 Looks of disappointment filled the ward. The faces of my auntie and the other patients carried the look which showed they were hoping something could be done to help them out of their predicament. It was very plain that they  hoped some one could help vocalise their request.

The Writer wanted to help his aunt and the other patients. He had to come up with an idea/argument which the Sister and the Nurse would accept. An idea struck.

“Sister, as a nurse, what was the best thing you would like to see in your patients?

“Err, that they recover quickly and are happy……”

“Excellent ! They must not brew over their illnesses. They must be happy……. “  “ How do they become happy ? “ “Enjoy a show which they loved. It will take their minds off their illnesses. And they will recover faster……”

 “ That being the case, if they are allowed to watch the “Man In The Net” they will not think about their illnesses . They will be happy . And they will recover faster. ….”

“So, can you please allow the patients to watch the show ?” “ I would like to point out that the person who signed the Regulations was probably a Division One/Superscale Officer who is entitled to stay in an “A – Class Ward” or Mount Elizabeth Hospital  which has full facilities.  For you as a Sister, you are entitled to at least B-Class ward which is also fully equipped.  The officer who drew up the Regulations, did not know what was happening on the ward floor.  You know better.  Compliance with the Regulations is secondary.  Your higher calling and paramount duty as a nursing staff,  is to ensure the welfare and speedy recovery of your patients. To be fair to you, if there is any compliant from other patients in the ward, the TV will be switched off. So, may we have your permission to leave the TV on ? “

“Err, I guess you have a point. Please go ahead.”

“Thank you, Sister.

A sea of happy faces immediately flooded  the whole ward.

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