After 10 years as a Singapore Armed Forces regular, Mr Kelvin Pang quit and took up a nursing course.

His main motivation was to pick up skills that he could apply directly at work - something he felt was missing in his previous career.

Mr Pang, 32, said that although he had a diploma in engineering, his role as a company sergeant-major did not require any of this knowledge. "Human anatomy doesn't change, so having that knowledge is a permanent skill and that was the attraction to me," he said.

He took up a two-year professional conversion programme last year and is now training to be a registered nurse.

Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said there is room for more people who want to make the mid-career switch.

"The needs in healthcare are growing very rapidly and we do want to ramp up the manpower very quickly," she said.

"What we want to do is to reach out to as many Singaporeans as possible, to encourage them to consider the job opportunities in healthcare."

Mrs Teo was visiting the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus yesterday to observe a simulation carried out by trainees and graduates from the nursing professional conversion programme. She was accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor.

Both acknowledged that in healthcare, the long duration of such conversion programmes can put off some people.

Mr Pang, for instance, has to study full time for two years in order to qualify as a registered nurse.

To help mitigate this, course fees for nursing conversion programmes are fully sponsored, Dr Khor said.

On top of that, trainees get an allowance that ranges between $1,700 and $2,050 each month.

"We understand that because they have to go through a period of training, we need to help them ease into the transition," Dr Khor said.

This year, 34 people have taken up the nursing conversion programme at Nanyang Polytechnic, an improvement on the average of 21 a year over the last three years, Dr Khor said.

She added that the school will be opening a second intake for this programme, with classes to start next month.

Ms Gian Poh Eng, who had been a human resource specialist for more than a decade, made the switch 10 years ago and now works as a senior staff nurse at SGH.

The 55-year-old said that while working in human resources at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, she spent time with nurses and it opened her eyes to the possibility of a new career.

"I didn't want to do any more paperwork," Ms Gian said. "I prefer more interaction with people and (to be) more hands-on."


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