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A Breath of Fresh Air for COPD Patients

​Lee Siew Ling, Nurse Clinician (Patient Navigator - COPD), RHS - Office for Intergrated Care, SGH

Having worked at the respiratory ward at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for almost 11 years, Siew Ling noticed that most patients had little knowledge regarding their chronic diseases especially after their discharge. In 2015, she decided to take on the role of Patient Navigator to work closely with patients, empowering them with self-care skills to help transit them safely from hospital to home. She believes this switch in role is key in igniting her passion in patient education.

“Understanding their sickness is critical in preventing high hospital readmission for patients,” she declared. “We want patients to realise that falling sick is not a scary thing if they manage it well, and we are with them throughout the whole journey.”

Siew Ling recalled the day she visited the home of a patient who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) three days after he was discharged. She was shocked to find that he had not been using his inhalers and his spacer was still intact in the box! Siew Ling and her colleague wasted no time explaining his condition to the patient again. Even though the patient claimed to have understood them, Siew Ling took the opportunity to enlist the help of his flatmate to assist him with his inhalers. At the next respiratory consultation, she was happy to find that the patient had become more confident and competent in his handling of the inhalers, and was also less breathless.

Siew Ling knows that she cannot rest on her laurels. “With the fast ageing population, nurses have to upgrade our professional credentials to be able to meet and fulfill their healthcare needs,” she said. One of her best learning experiences was a two-day exchange with the respiratory case managers at Changi General Hospital (CGH), organised by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Lung Centre in 2019. She observed how the CGH respiratory case managers screened and conducted COPD counselling, and learnt how telecare services were arranged by the Health Management Unit at CGH.

At the same time, the Office of Integrated Care where she worked was setting up a telecare support department to closely follow up with patients on how they are coping with their chronic diseases at home. As some of Siew Ling’s patients were newly diagnosed, stable COPD patients who did not require home visits, she found it helpful to perform follow-ups with them over the phone to ensure continued care of these patients upon their discharge.