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More men join nursing profession in Singapore

In the last five years, the Health Ministry said the number of registered male nurses in Singapore has grown about 60 per cent. This is seen as an encouraging sign for Singapore, which is readying to serve the needs of an ageing population.

SINGAPORE: In the last five years, the Health Ministry said the number of registered male nurses in Singapore has grown about 60 per cent, from 2,034 in 2009 to 3,231 in 2013. It is seen as an encouraging sign as Singapore's healthcare workforce braces itself to serve the needs of an ageing population.

The ministry said the additional demand for nurses until 2020 is projected to be around 1,400 a year on average. This does not take into account attrition of nurses from the practising workforce. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of practising nurses has increased by 1,120, from 29,413 to 30,533. To hit this target, eradicating gender stereotypes for nursing is key.

Ang Wei Kiat served as a staff nurse at the Intensive Care Unit at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for about five years. But the hospital observed his creative streak and offered him a position in its communications team where he helps to disseminate information to nurses through various platforms. He also handles the hospital's newsletter and Facebook page.

Mr Ang said: "Nowadays, times have changed and the sky is the limit now. There're a lot of things nurses can do. For male nurses, this job offers that adrenalin rush and is exciting depending on which area you work in. I think it's also a very important skill set that you can carry with you in terms of caring for your family members or knowing what to do in crises."

He had chosen nursing as a career as he wanted something that touched the lives of others.

But the journey was not as smooth for some male nurses.

Chen Yuan Beng, staff nurse at Institute of Mental Health, said: "As a male coming into a female-dominated profession, there are bound to be some obstacles and perceptions that people will have. Even when I first started (work), some of my family and friends were like, ‘you should be doctor and not a nurse’.

“There's a perception that doctors are male and nurses are females, but I think our world is changing all the time. Even nursing is moving towards a more knowledge- and expertise-based profession and these days we have nurses in all kinds of high-value roles such as educators and clinicians."

Olivia Tay, group chief human resource officer for National Healthcare Group, said the increase in number of male nurses could be due to the demands as well as the stability that the job offers.

"There's better remuneration and career prospects and also the nature of the job now involves not just purely bedside nursing, but also involves many other aspects, where we have to deal with very complex care, make use of technological advanced equipment and options offered to them,” she said. “They can actually pursue (education) to become an advanced practice nurse, specialising in specific areas. They can also move on to do research and education."

Mrs Tay added that strong support from family and friends is also important in spurring more men to join this profession. 

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