Advanced Practice Nurse (Dr) Lee Yee Mei, Assistant Director of Nursing, National University Hospital and Head, Nursing, National University Cancer Institute, Singapore is among the five recipients of the prestigious President’s Award for Nurses this year.
Even before the trend of community and home care nursing became more prevalent in Singapore, Dr Lee has always believed that the future of patient care lies beyond the hospitals. With that end in mind since 2012, she started to initiate projects - some of which are the first of its kind in Singapore - that moved care to where it is most accessible for the patients; into the communities and their homes.
In 2015, Dr Lee spearheaded a project that reduced the length of stay and readmission for patients receiving chemotherapy by at least 28 days per patient. The success of the initiative prompted her to take this further by moving treatment from the ward to clinic. Dr Lee challenged the boundary of care by introducing chemotherapy home care programme, another nation’s first. As a result, patients and caregivers benefitted from significant savings in time and cost.
Another project that has not only shaved the patient’s waiting time for blood taking by two hours, it also moved the procedure from hospital to community. Forming strategic alliance with community partners, cancer patients can now have venepuncture done in locations near their homes.
Dr Lee is also the first Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) in Singapore to be credentialed to perform bone marrow extraction - a procedure typically done by doctors - for patients. She believes that holistic care plays an important role in allaying patient’s anxiety. Prior to procedure, Dr Lee engages the patient to understand their pain threshold and how they cope with pain so that she can manage their expectations and advise appropriately. This thoughtful gesture goes a long way in lessening patients’ stress. For those requiring extra care, she will follow up closely to ensure that the patient is coping well post-procedure. She has been independently performing bone marrow extraction since 2009.
Building competency and imparting knowledge is important to Dr Lee. She believes that one of the keys to developing a capable and compassionate nursing workforce is to be a mentor and role model for younger nurses. She invests in them through strong mentorship, career counselling and staff engagement. Most of her APN-mentees have successfully completed their training to become full-fledged APNs. She also actively nurtures junior nurses who aspire to become APNs, supervises students undertaking primary research and plays a pivotal role in promoting clinical pathway for nursing development.
Dr Lee conducts research and reviews abstracts and journal articles. She has held teaching appointments in the Alice Lee Centre of Nursing Studies and the Ngee-Ann Adelaide Education Centre.
Despite her heavy work commitments, she actively participates in cancer patient support group. In fact, she started and launched the inaugural National Lymphoma Support Group and the World Lymphoma Day in Singapore. As a strong advocate for cancer screening, Dr Lee organises public talks and provides full support for community screening activities.