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Work-life balance, further education would help attract talent, say nurses

The feedback given on Monday (July 14) is part of a series of engagement sessions with nurses to find out how to better attract and retain people for the industry.

SINGAPORE: Work-life balance and further education for nurses were among some of the main issues brought up during a dialogue session on Monday (July 14).

The session was helmed by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, and is part of a series of initiatives that seek to engage stakeholders on how to attract and retain talent for the industry.

Other issues raised by nurses during the session included more public recognition of the importance of nurses and better career advancement.

The views will be collated by the National Nursing Taskforce (NNT), set up in December 2012, to focus on the development of the profession. The NNT has engaged more than 2,000 nurses over 18 sessions and will submit its recommendations in the second half of the year.

A work-group will also look at promoting part-time or flexi-work to encourage more to remain in the profession.

"We have formed a work-group to look into how we can better promote the availability and take up of part time or flexi-work in the nursing profession, and make this available and easier for nurses who want to go on part-time work because of family priorities to do so,” said Dr Khor.

“And we hope that in future, perhaps part-time work can be mainstream so that it's easier, particularly for those with families, to go on part time work; then we can encourage more to actually stay on in the profession."

Nurses Channel NewsAsia spoke to confirm that family priorities are the main reasons for the lower retention rate of the profession.

"Personally for me, I enjoy shift work, maybe because I don't have a family yet, but some of the other nurses inside were bringing up about how they were having difficulties, especially those with children. Some of them were actually forced to resign from nursing to look after their children first," said Muhammad Imran Ahmad, staff nurse at Singapore General Hospital.

In terms of public recognition, nurses said the Health Ministry's "Care to Go Beyond" branding campaign has helped others understand what they do.

However, they feel more is needed to increase understanding that nurses do not only clean up after patients.

"Better recognition lies in public perception as well as how they actually portray us nurses as to what our job is actually like," said Reysham Kaur, senior staff nurse at National University Hospital.

"Right now, the public may think that nurses are actually doing very basic jobs, like cleaning up after patients of just giving them their diet. However, nursing is so much more than that,” said Marcus Chia, staff nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

“We have advanced to a higher level of qualifications as well as job enhancements, and right now a staff nurse's job is more of coordinating care and ensuring that patients are delivered safe and effective treatments in the hospital, as well as ensuring their continuity of care even after leaving the hospital."

Under the 2020 Masterplan, Singapore needs some 20,000 more healthcare professionals, mainly because of the country's ageing population.

"Really, nursing is the backbone of the healthcare sector and we also need nurses really to help us in the implementation of the 2020 Masterplan because we'll need more nurses as we expand our healthcare facilities, building more hospitals, community hospitals, nursing homes and even senior care centres,” said Dr Khor.

“And we need also to have more nurses to train them in new skills to support the transformation of our care motto. This is done in terms of expansion of our ILTC (Intermediate and Long Term Care) sector, in terms of integration of care across the various care settings, primary, acute as well as the ILTC sectors." 

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