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Guiding Voices, Saving Lives
The next time you dial 995, the voice on the other end of the line might not belong to a SCDF officer; you could be speaking to a full-time nurse.

Although it’s been 20 years since her father suffered a fatal cardiac arrest, not a day passes without Geraldine Goh believing that he could still be alive – if someone had been able to help him. 

“It happened when he was at the carpark, and at that time, there were no instructions given over the phone to people who could have helped him,” said Geraldine, a 30-year-old staff nurse seconded to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Operations Centre. “So this job motivates me to help other people as well.”

Geraldine is one of 13 full-time nurses working with the SCDF to respond to 995 calls, guiding callers on the steps they can take to help patients during emergencies. 

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SCDF’s Chief Medical Officer Shalini Arulanandam (centre), with nurses Geraldine Goh (left) and Muhammad Firman Bin Muliladi. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

The nurses would assist callers with medical emergencies, gather enough information to make an initial diagnosis and give the appropriate life-saving advice to the caller, to help preserve the patient’s life and increase the chances of a positive outcome. 

They can also access the National Electronic Health Record to screen the patient’s medical history and allergies, and provide attending paramedics with additional information that can lead to better outcomes. 

Last year, an agreement between the SCDF and SingHealth, Singapore’s largest healthcare group, increased the number of SingHealth nurses seconded to the SCDF Operations Centre to 14. The collaboration that started with four nurses in 2011 has contributed to a rise in Singapore’s bystander Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) rates from an average of 20% to over 50% in the past seven years. 

Nurses also review 100% of all cardiac arrest calls, assess the quality of the calls and provide feedback to the call takers. Their job scope was also expanded to conduct operational research and improve protocols related to emergency medical dispatch. 

It was a steep learning curve for Muhammad Firman Bin Muliladi who joined the SCDF team after working as a nurse at the Singapore General Hospital. He was chided by a caller for asking too many questions when he first started. 

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PHOTO: Desmond Ang

“There was some anxiety when I first joined the team because our job wasn’t only about asking questions, we also have to make sure the caller is calm before they can respond to us, or give us the answers we need,” said the 27-year-old. 

“The anxiety tends to multiply when it involves an infant or a child,” added Geraldine. “If the caller is able to tell us exactly what they see and provide us with accurate information then we can manage accordingly.”

And Geraldine’s story has since gone full circle. She recently attended to a young couple whose father had also suffered cardiac arrest in Punggol.

“Because the incident happened in Punggol, which is a new estate, they had access to Automated External Defibrillators (AED) at their void decks. So as the husband performed CPR on the patient, his wife went downstairs to fetch the AED,” recalled Geraldine, who had responded to the couple’s 995 call. “This was especially memorable because of what happened my father, and the patient was able to recover from his episode.”

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 01 November 2018
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