More pursuing a career in nursing

About 2,000 students took up course of study last year, a third more than in 2012: MOH

More pursuing a career in nursing

When he was a teenager, Mr Toh Zheng An wanted to be a nurse after seeing the care his mother received when she was hospitalised with a critical illness.

But his father regarded nursing  as a job for women, so without any other career in mind, Mr Toh took up engineering at Nanyang Polytechnic.

However, his original ambition persisted and after one semester, he switched to nursing.

Again, his father's unhappiness made him sidestep a nursing career in favour of health management and promotion at Republic Polytechnic.

But nursing remained his goal, so upon getting his diploma, he applied for and received the Healthcare Merit Award to study nursing at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He did a stint early last year, following nurses on their rounds "to make sure that nursing really is for me", he said. The stint convinced him. "Job satisfaction is more important than a high salary," he added.

The 24-year-old is one of the estimated 2,000 students who took up nursing last year. This is a third more than the 1,500 who took up nursing courses in 2012.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) says the number of students taking up nursing has been rising gradually.

It has been trying to raise interest in nursing as a career, given the large number of nurses Singapore will need as more healthcare facilities open, such as Sengkang General Hospital later this year.


Today, 10,000 nurses - roughly a third of the total here - are foreigners. The largest group of foreign nurses is from the Philippines, followed by Malaysia and China.

Not all of the 2,000 students who took up nursing here last year are locals, though they form more than 70 per cent of the cohort each year. The rest are largely Malaysians, a ministry spokesman said.

There is also an increasing trend of students taking higher-level courses. Last year, about 490 students took up nursing at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), 1,340 at polytechnics and 230 at NUS.

Nursing graduates from the ITE, who qualify as enrolled nurses, earn a starting pay of about $1,750 a month.

Of last year's polytechnic intake, 14 per cent were enrolled nurses upgrading to become registered nurses, who earn a gross median starting pay of $2,400.

University graduates generally start with a gross salary of $3,400.

To attract more and better-qualified people, the MOH has been offering more nursing scholarships, which are worth about $150,000 for local studies and about $350,000 for studies overseas.

Ms Lois Si, a former student of Ang Mo Kio Secondary School, took up an Integrated Nursing Scholarship, which covers her for a three-year diploma course, followed by 19 months at the Singapore Institute of Technology or one year at a foreign university.

She has wanted to be a nurse since she was five, after her father was involved in an accident and she saw how well he was looked after. Now, more than a decade later, she still feels that nursing "is pretty cool".

She enjoys interacting with older people and hopes to work with the elderly. Eventually, she hopes to become a nurse educator, helping others learn, not just with their hands, but also with their hearts.


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