Singaporeans would be encouraged to know that nursing is growing more attractive as a career. Although the fall in the attrition rate - from 9 per cent in 2011 to 8 per cent last year - is marginal, the more important fact is that people are seeing the profession in a new light. What is especially heartening is that men are being drawn to nursing in larger numbers, as shown by enrolment figures at polytechnics and health-care institutions. Gone are the days when nursing was seen as an undervalued women's profession.
Several factors are behind the change of social perception. One is that an ageing society will demand rapid growth in the health-care sector that will need to be driven by more nurses, among others. This growth will add to the job security which the sector already affords in an economy where many are vulnerable to downturns caused by unpredictable and uncontrollable global trends. Nursing, by contrast, is directed closely at meeting local needs.
Certainly, the Government's proactive moves to boost the profession's financial incentives and broaden the job scopes of nurses have also helped to recast nursing as a satisfying career in both professional and remunerative terms. In celebrating nurses as the backbone of the health-care workforce, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong matched sentiment with action when his ministry announced that nurses in the public sector would enjoy pay rises, broader job scopes and better career progression.
Despite moves to retain nurses and attract new members to the profession, demand might exceed supply and will require the presence of skilled foreigners. Hence, there should be no let-up in developing the national core in a profession whose work goes to the heart of caring for those in need.
Nursing remains defined by the nobility of its calling. The everyday compassion and mission to serve demonstrated by nurses should never be taken for granted.
This article was first published on August 17, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.