COVID-19 SPECIAL

Nurse couple walk the talk on hygiene

Nurse clinician Chan Zhi Qiang and his nurse manager wife Lynette Thng with a photo of their three-year-old twin boys Brayden and Ethan. Aside from teaching their loved ones the importance of keeping clean, the couple also remind their patients to pr
Nurse clinician Chan Zhi Qiang and his nurse manager wife Lynette Thng with a photo of their three-year-old twin boys Brayden and Ethan. Aside from teaching their loved ones the importance of keeping clean, the couple also remind their patients to practise good hygiene.PHOTO: KHOO TECK PUAT HOSPITAL

They tell themselves to stay vigilant, keeping to a rigorous cleaning routine even at home

"The fear of being unknowingly infected will always exist. We can only remind ourselves to be very vigilant," says Mr Chan Zhi Qiang, 35, who is a nurse clinician taking care of Covid-19 patients at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Mr Chan and his wife Lynette Thng, also a nurse, are on the front line of Singapore's battle against Covid-19.

Their own strongest line of defence is a rigorous hygiene routine, which they keep to even after they return home to their loved ones.

Ms Thng, 35, a nurse manager at the same hospital, said: "We've become much more mindful of our personal hygiene, such as showering immediately once we return home from work, frequently washing our hands before and after meals, and ensuring that our hands are washed before we touch food or our loved ones."

The couple have three-year-old twin boys and live with Mr Chan's parents. They make sure their house is cleaned daily. Common surfaces are wiped down with antibacterial cleaning solutions.

At the dining table, food sharing is discouraged, and different sets of cutlery have been designated for each member of the family.

"We tell our kids how dangerous the virus is and how it impacts one's health," said Ms Thng.

They often accompany their kids to the sink to ensure that they carry out the hand-washing process correctly and completely.

Aside from teaching their loved ones the importance of keeping clean, the couple also remind their patients to practise good hygiene, such as washing their hands after visiting the toilet and cleaning up before and after meals.

 
 
 

Ms Thng, whose patients are mainly seniors, said that some of them have dementia and are unable to retain information well, while others face mobility constraints and require assistance from their family members.

Mr Chan, who has many foreign workers under his care, ensures that they are taught the correct mask-wearing technique as well as the seven steps of hand washing, assisted by educational videos in the workers' native languages.

Many workers have also been participating in simple mass exercises to keep them active and healthy during hospitalisation.

"Many of these workers miss their families dearly," said Mr Chan. "You can tell from the way they are happily chatting with their wives and children on the phone. I'm glad that their families are still able to support them during such a difficult time."

As a nurse who looks after Covid-19 patients, Mr Chan is required to wash his hands during these five "critical moments": before and after coming into contact with patients, before "aseptic tasks" such as wound dressing and after coming into contact with patients' bodily fluids and surrounding environments.

 

"I reframe the way I think and tell myself that working in a Covid-19 ward is the safest... since there is little to no possibility of receiving 'surprise' patients, such as suspect cases," Mr Chan explained.

"It is critical that we are diligent in ensuring that our personal hygiene is well adhered to, and following this stringent routine closely helps me to reassure myself and remain focused on nursing my patients back to recovery," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2020, with the headline 'Nurse couple walk the talk on hygiene'. Print Edition | Subscribe