Nurses can expect higher pay, more opportunities

SINGAPORE — Nurses here can expect higher pay, find more opportunities to further their studies and career, and exercise greater decision-making authority at work, said the Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Nurses’ Merit Award today (Aug 6).

These were part of the 15 recommendations made by the National Nursing Taskforce (NNT), aimed at enhancing the growth, professional development and recognition of nurses in the public healthcare sector. All 15 recommendations submitted to the Ministry of Health (MOH) were accepted, said Mr Gan.

MOH had set up the taskforce in 2012 to review and recommend ways to strengthen the development of the nursing profession. Over two years, taskforce has met with the Healthcare Service Employees’ Union and more than 2,000 nurses across 18 dialogue and townhall sessions to gather their feedback.

Speaking at the event, Mr Gan noted how the 36,000 skilled nurses today from the backbone of the healthcare system.

“With an ageing population and riding incidents of chronic and more complex conditions, nurses have increasingly taken on greater roles and heavier responsibilities such as instituting first responder interventions, active patient and caregiver education, specialized nursing treatment and management of chronic diseases,” he said.

Referring to the changes in the healthcare sector, Mr Gan said that besides expanding healthcare capacity and enhancing its affordability, efforts should also be focused on preventive health, primary care for seniors with multiple conditions and a need to build up the Intermediate and Long Term Care (ILTC) sector to support an ageing population.

He added: “Nurses are at the forefront of this effort to transform our healthcare system through the myriad of roles they play.”

“More nurses will be needed, and we must equip our nurses with higher skills and knowledge and allow them to practice at the top of their license and lead the change in our healthcare system.”

In the area of career development, more Enrolled Nurses — nurses who are trained at the Institute of Technical Education — will have the opportunity to be upgraded at polytechnics to become Registered Nurses. The part-time bridging course — currently offered at Nanyang and Ngee Ann Polytechnics — is for those who did not meet the academic requirement in their NITEC nursing course and would like to enrol in nursing diploma courses. The GPA criteria of 2.8 for this course will then be removed to provide more opportunities for Enrolled Nurses to join the course.

They will be eligible as long as they have at least three years of post-enrolment nursing work experience and employer’s testimonial, said Mr Gan.

A new Assistant Nurse Clinician role will also be introduced, allowing Senior Staff Nurses who are performing well to assume supervisory and leadership roles earlier in their careers.

Flexible and part-time work arrangements will also be made more accessible to nurses who need them, said Mr Gan.

Nurses can also expect greater autonomy as the ministry plans to expand nurses’ clinical accountability and decision-making authority.

“Nurses’ roles will be expanded to enable them to make protocol-based diagnoses and investigations for certain disease profiles and to order treatment,” he said. This includes granting them the authority to order x-rays or blood tests for instance, instead of having doctors issue these orders.

In order to ensure that the recognition for nurses is commensurate with their expanding roles and remains competitive with the market, Mr Gan said the taskforce has also reviewed the pay of the public sector nurses. Nurses in the public healthcare and MOH-subvented ILTC institutions will receive a 3 to 10 per cent increase in their monthly base salaries each year, for 2014 and 2015.

On top of their existing bonus scheme, a new annual bonus — the Nurse Special Payment — of 0.5 months will also be introduced in December. S$300 million has been set aside by the ministry to fund the salary increases and the new annual bonus.

In terms of education, Mr Gan said the internship programme for Advanced Practice Nurses will be enhanced to make it more structured and standardised across the healthcare system to meet national needs.

Post-registration nurses will also be more broad-based, with added emphasis on community nursing and rotation to the ILTC.

Mr Gan said: “This change is necessary to equip nurses to manage patients who today, present with multiple clinical care needs and co-morbidities regardless of setting or institution.”

A National Council of Nursing Education will also be set up under the Chief Nursing Officer’s office to oversee and enhance nursing education training and development, added Mr Gan.

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