Health Ministry to ensure attractive career opportunities for nurses

SINGAPORE - The nursing industry here is about to get a major shot in the arm after a national task force was set up to look into all areas of the profession.

The well-being of nurses, new career structures and education paths for them, along with the job's public image, will all be examined.

Late last year, 56 nurses, doctors, ministry officers and other health-care leaders were brought together to make their recommendations, which are slated to be ready by the year's end.

This was revealed on Wednesday at the Ministry of Health's (MOH) Nurses Merit Awards at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Cavenagh Road.

The move to help retain staff and draw more people into nursing comes amid a manpower crunch in the health-care sector.

Nurses, of whom there are around 34,500 here, are in high demand, with more medical facilities being built for Singapore's growing and rapidly ageing population. The plan is to grow the local pool of nurses by 2,700 annually.

The Health Ministry's chief nursing officer Pauline Tan said a revamp is timely given that the role of nurses has expanded, with some of them involved in the planning of patients' care and their discharge from hospital.

"Nurses also double as case managers, care coordinators and discharge planners," she explained. "We should direct our concerted efforts to optimise the use of our limited nursing resources."

Agreeing, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor pointed out that some nurses also perform tasks like health assessments, while others even carry out research work.

On top of the task force, steps are also being taken to woo back nurses who have left the service, she said.

There are around 4,000 nurses who are no longer active in the health-care sector. But a survey last year showed that some who have left are interested to return. Health-care institutions are now exploring various flexible work schemes to help those with family commitments, added Dr Tan.

In March, MOH launched a branding campaign to inspire more to join nursing.

Senior nurse clinician Er Lian Hwa said nursing standards are now higher, when asked how the profession has evolved since she started work 35 years ago. "More have degrees, and we also pay more attention to patient safety, training and research," said the 53-year-old, who works at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic.

She was one of 77 nurses who received the MOH merit award, which recognises outstanding nurses in the various medical institutions.

Fellow award winner Nurwahidah Nor'Aini, a 28-year-old senior assistant nurse, said she hopes more will be done to give those like her more opportunities to further their studies.

The Institute of Technical Education graduate, who works at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, said: "In the near future, I hope to pursue a diploma at a polytechnic so that I can be a staff nurse one day."

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