SINGAPORE - Health Minister Gan Kim Yong believes one way to give nursing a shot in the arm is for nurses to talk about their trials and triumphs.
Giving young people a good dose of how they help the sick can inject a passion in them to join what he said is "a noble profession". Mr Gan made the call on Friday as Singapore's health institutions gear up to mark Nurses Day next Thursday.
Directing his message at more than 1,000 nurses during celebrations held at the Institute of Mental Health on Friday, he said: "Do not be shy about telling others that you are a mental-health nurse. Instead, educate them and give them an insight into your work, and how fulfilling it can be."
Nurses today have many opportunities to get ahead and enjoy varied experiences, he added. Aside from clinical work, they can have a hand in research, education and administration too.
With Singapore's population ageing and growing, their role will gain even greater prominence, Mr Gan said. "We will need more of our young Singaporeans to join the profession." His ministry's campaign, "Care to Go Beyond", aims to raise the profession's profile and coax people to join nursing.
In most years, there are more training places than applicants to the polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education that train nurses. Though technology can help ease the shortage, it cannot replace the personal touch, said Mr Gan.
While nurses' pay was raised last year by up to 17 per cent to ensure it stays competitive, Mr Gan said it is more important that nurses find their jobs rewarding and fulfilling.
Elaborating on how nurses can move up the professional ladder, IMH chief executive Chua Hong Choon said that of the institute's nurses, 219 have a bachelor's or master's degree, and one holds a doctorate. He added: "Nursing research has been very prolific and our nurses are making strides in evidence-based practice to improve mental-health care standards." One example is finding a safer way to hand over work to nurses taking over the next shift, he said. The project is being done with Australia's Joanna Briggs Institute.
IMH, which celebrates its 85th anniversary this year, has come a long way from the simple custodial care it offered in its early years. With $180 million committed in 2007 to strengthen mental- health services, treatment is given not just at IMH but in the community as well.
IMH nurses today provide "home-based psycho-social rehabilitation in the community", said Mr Gan. "This makes care more accessible and less stigmatising, which is especially important in mental health."
Several nurses received awards yesterday for going the extra mile. Among them was Senior Staff Nurse Ng Suay Hua. A nurse for the past 36 years, she was lauded in the citation as someone who "has mentored many juniors, providing them with guidance and coaching".
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