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Chief Nurse
Department of Nursing
National University Hospital

Dr Catherine Koh is a nurse leader with a vision for the profession and is committed to elevating its professional status in Singapore. Her aspirations for nursing propel her to challenge the status quo and deal with issues that many find daunting. She remains unfazed by obstacles and tenaciously seeks out creative and innovative solutions to address the challenges. In managing change, Dr Koh effectively engages relevant stakeholders in the process. Along the way, she demonstrates exceptional resolve in working through the challenges for the greater good of nursing and the organisation, remaining steadfast to her goal and seeing it through to fruition.

An ardent proponent of staff development, Dr Koh set up the Staff Development Framework for Nursing in 2005. She is highly cognizant of the importance of developing young nurses and ensuring there is available talented and motivated nurses to meet our organisation needs. Dr Koh recognised the need to support fresh nursing undergraduates in transiting from student to competent professional nurse. She developed the first of such a programme in Singapore – the Graduate Nurse Residency Programme (GnRP), to help new nurses with issues such as role transition and clinical practice. Many of the resident nurses and their supervisors noted that the  resident nurses have demonstrated a lot of personal and professional growth through the programme and their personal interactions with Dr Koh. Currently in its fifth year, the programme has supported a total of 86 graduate nurses in successfully transiting to practice in their first year of employment. The attrition rate remains low for this group of nurses. The GnRP extends to two other components – the Mentoring Programme and the Individual Development Programme, which continue to support these nurses as they develop in their careers and become experienced healthcare professionals. The fruit of Dr Koh’s labour, this three-part programme has benefitted our young nurses immensely.

Dr Koh is also lauded for her efforts in developing the Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) in the NUH. Many APNs in the NUH attribute their professional growth to her guidance and leadership. Dr Koh was Chair for the APN Council in the NUH and worked closely with physicians to formalise role development and professional certification of APNs. As the Chief Nurse, she continues to place emphasis on the recruitment, development, and retention of APNs, as well as pushing boundaries to progress the APN role and practices at national platforms, and demonstrating the value of APNs in healthcare delivery.  

The NUH LUVing Nurses Movement is another testament of Dr Koh’s passion for the nursing profession. She believes that each nurse can grow and flourish under a positive work environment and initiated an organisation-wide survey that contributed to plans for improving the nurses’ practice environment and staff engagement. It is with this vision that she has been able to bring the nursing leadership together to chart a new journey for the nursing profession. Initiatives are on-going and Dr Koh continues to be personally involved in these projects, in spite of her heavy responsibilities as the Chief Nurse.

Dr Koh is a nurse at heart and her priority always lies with improving patient care. This is reflected in many of the projects she has initiated, including developing the Nursing Quality Improvement Framework a decade ago. Several new initiatives have materialised under her able leadership, including Transforming Care at the Bedside, nurse-initiated care protocols, nurse-led transition care process, engagement of next-of-kin in patient care activities, and inpatient electronic clinical documentation. Under her guidance, Innovation Ward 42 is piloting a wireless vital signs monitoring system in a bid to optimise the use of nurses’ time, and improve patient safety and experience. Dr Koh is also a familiar face at the hospital’s Rapid Improvement Events (RIEs), as she believes that worthy changes in nursing work processes and practice can bring about improvements to patient care. As advisor to the various RIEs, she directs multi-prong changes to help increase direct nurse-patient contact time with an aim to provide more holistic care to our patients.

Dedicated nursing leaders are valued assets to any healthcare institution and Dr Catherine Koh is one of them. She is a worthy recipient of the Excellence Award.