AS A marketing executive in a travel agency, Ms Wendy Tan (above) used to clock 12-hour shifts to meet sales targets, which often left her feeling drained and uninspired.

Faced with the prospect of an unfulfilling career in a profit-driven industry, Ms Tan, 29, made a life-changing decision in 2008 to switch careers by leveraging on the Continuing Education and Training (CET) system.

But the question confronting her: Switch to which industry?

After thorough online research, she discovered that nursing was a profession that would drive her, and provide a challenging yet rewarding career — and it was possible to achieve with CET.

It was also a great help to know that the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) offered a range of Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) designed for mid-career job-switchers like her.

Essentially, the WDA’s PCPs allow workers to embrace skills upgrading so they have the necessary knowledge and competencies to take on new jobs. This in turn allows them to seize new opportunities in the job marketplace, as well as stay relevant to changing workplace needs.

Under the WDA’s PCP for registered nurses, Ms Tan signed up for a two-year Diploma in Nursing, a full-time accelerated programme conducted at Nanyang Polytechnic and aimed at mid-career professionals.

Back to school

The transition from working life to going back to school was challenging. In the past, Ms Tan had never enjoyed studying; she now had to make a concerted effort to change that.

However, once she started her programme, she began to look forward to each class — learning how specific organs function, how a disease can manifest in the human body, and the specific treatments and nursing procedures that can help manage or cure it.

The two-year course allowed her to become fully immersed in her studies. Her fast-paced training period, which was part of her nursing programme, prepared her for the professional and emotional expectations of a career in health care.

Having to balance her training schedule with written assignments, group projects and skills practice, motivated Ms Tan to be more organised. With better time management, she was able to prioritise and complete the tasks at hand.

Although she felt overwhelmed at times, her positive attitude and assistance from her classmates helped her overcome the challenges. Being surrounded by a group of like-minded and supportive classmates in the PCP, she found her classroom environment stimulating, with its passionate discussions and debates on patient care and nursing issues.

Ms Tan’s efforts paid off when she completed the Diploma in Nursing in April 2010. She is now a staff nurse at the Institute of Mental Health.

However, her CET journey is not over yet, although she has made the transition from travel to nursing. With the full support of her proud family, she is currently pursuing an Advanced Diploma in Nursing (Mental Health), which will allow her to specialise and develop expertise in an area she is passionate about.

Reflecting on her first day in her staff nurse’s uniform, she says: “I felt a great sense of achievement, knowing I had a duty to care.

“Nursing is a demanding profession but, despite the ups and downs, I am happy I decided to follow my passion early enough to enjoy a long and fulfilling career. Making my patients feel better and seeing them smile never fails to make my day.”