MORE than a third of nurses in obstetrics and gynaecology and a quarter of paediatric nurses skipped going for continuing education courses last year.

But nearly all the 128 nurses in obstetrics and gynaecology and 70 paediatric nurses recently polled said they thought such courses were essential.

The survey was done by the Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore (OGSS), the Singapore Paediatric Society (SPS) and infant milk powder maker Danone Dumex Singapore.

Junior nurses with five or fewer years in their speciality were found to have gone for the fewest courses.

Mount Alvernia Hospital's assistant director of nursing Susan Kok said this might be because, being recent graduates, they do not see an urgent need to update their knowledge.

To address the training shortfall, the three organisations are jointly offering a free one-day course for nurses here.

The first Dumex Preci Maternal & Child Health Education for Nurses course will run in September, with a target of 80 participants. It will cover topics in which survey respondents had indicated interest - nutritional needs during pregnancy and childhood, breastfeeding, tips for labour and care of the newborn.

Depending on demand, future courses may be conducted; Dumex aims to train 200 nurses in the next three years.

The course content may also change, depending on the findings of future surveys.

OGSS president Fong Yoke Fai said continuing education is necessary as medical science continues to advance.

'Often, what we learnt at graduation forms only the basis for lifelong learning,' he said.

SPS president Anne Goh said continuing education should not be undertaken only by doctors; nurses, who in fact have more contact time with patients, play an important role in educating parents:

'Paediatric nurses therefore have to be well-informed, so they can give appropriate advice.'

At another event yesterday, 73 nurses from both the public and private sectors were recognised for their outstanding performance at the Ministry of Health's Nurses' Merit Award.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, speaking at the event, said his ministry is looking at how the nursing profession can be rebranded and marketed.

'We must show that nursing is not only a noble profession, but it is also an exciting and fulfilling one which calls to those who have a heart for people, a head to make critical judgments and decisions, and the strength and foresight to make a difference.'

He said nursing is now on a par with other careers in terms of educational qualifications, with courses being offered all the way till PhD level here.

Nurses got a pay hike of up to 17 per cent in April, in a bid to make the profession more attractive and retain staff.

Started in 1976, the award honours nurses who have demonstrated, among other things, consistent and outstanding performance.