A good source of motivation, but more can be done: Nurses on special payment package
Some nurses CNA spoke to said a review of leave benefits, especially for young mothers, would help a lot.
SINGAPORE: Emily, a senior enrolled nurse at a public hospital in Singapore, decided to join the profession because of her ill grandmother. She says it's a calling but lately has been questioning her decision.
Emily, who did not want her name to be published, has been a nurse for close to 11 years and has had thoughts about leaving the service.
"Sometimes we end quite late and we don’t get overtime pay. You can only claim time-off when necessary and my kids will still be in school. Sometimes we cannot say we don't want to stay back also. We have to stay. That's where the problem comes and we have to find an alternative to fetch the kids before the childcare closes," she told CNA.
"We don’t only deal with patients, you also deal with relatives who expect a lot more than your job scope and they don't understand that certain things are out of (our) control and they will get verbally abusive and sometimes it has a negative impact on me."
As part of efforts to attract and retain nursing talent like Emily, the Government announced on Sunday (Jul 31) that more than 25,000 nurses will receive a special payment of between 1.7 and 2.1 months of their base salary.
This package will apply to nurses in the public healthcare clusters – National Healthcare Group, National University Health System, and SingHealth – as well as those in publicly-funded community care organisations.
The Ministry of Health said that the 2022 Nurse Special Payment (NSP) Package recognises the hard work and contribution of Singapore's nurses.
“It’s a good source of motivation for me, I feel like the government is trying to do something to make us feel that we are appreciated,” said Emily.
Echoing that sentiment is Ms Marie Kaylin Wong, an assistant nurse clinician at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
"This is an encouraging and welcome move. It also recognises nurses' contributions ... Of course, being a nurse also comes with much stress and (a) lack of rest. Rest is important. I have nurse colleagues who are my age and just starting families. The retention payment is helpful to them," said the 30-year-old.
For senior staff nurse, V Nanthiniy, also 30, her passion for nursing is what keeps her in her job.
“It is definitely something I am thankful for as we have been working very hard on the ground since the start of the pandemic. I am definitely happy to be receiving this retention payment and it gives me a morale boost," said Ms Nanthiniy, who works at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
"However, what really keeps me in the profession thus far would be the passion I have for nursing and serving others.”
Like many before her, Ms Nanthiniy was inspired to become a nurse because of a personal experience. Growing up, she had observed the care nurses gave her younger sister, who was born with special needs.
The NSP package will be calculated based on the nurses' base salary as of Dec 1, 2022.
This comprises the regular NSP of 0.5 months, which will be paid out in December 2022, as well as the enhanced NSP of between 1.2 and 1.6 months, which will be split equally into two tranches to be paid out in March 2023 and September 2023 to nurses who remain in continuous service with their employing organisation.
Emily feels that the extra remuneration is long overdue.
Excluding annual increments, her pay, she told CNA, has been revised only once in the 11 years that she has been employed as a nurse.
"They only started revising our salary after the pandemic which I feel should have been done even before. We are very underpaid. Imagine, this is the first time I (have) had a salary revision ever since I started working."
The base salaries of public healthcare nurses were raised by between 5 per cent and 14 per cent following a review of their remuneration last year. The first phase of the increase was in July 2021, while the second phase of the increase was in July 2022.
With the final tranche of payments to be paid out only in September 2023, Emily thinks this might not be enough to retain nurses who are already set on leaving.
"Yes, it definitely is a good so-called motivation but if for me if I really want to leave the organisation, I will leave despite the retention bonus," she said.
"If I have a better opportunity outside, and from now until next year I would have made up for the retention bonus itself. So I feel if people really want to leave they will leave."
She feels that more can be done for nurses who are also young mothers.
"I feel that they (the government) should increase the number of (days of) childcare leave and family care leave. We only have six days of childcare leave and I have three young children and young children tend to fall sick very often. Even with an additional two days of leave I will be able to spend more time with my family."
Ms Wong of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital feels the same.
"If possible, we may also review leave benefits for young mothers. Child care and parent care leave, for example, will be helpful too. I see myself in this job for the long run and having been promoted, I am excited to embark on a larger job scope which sees myself being equipped with leadership and administrative skills, deepening my skillsets."
Monetary incentives, while welcome, cannot be the only way to show appreciation and recognition to nurses, said Ms Nanthiniy.
"The words of encouragement and appreciation nurses receive from our organisations and patients will definitely be a boost to our morale, igniting the passion for serving people," she said.
CNA has asked the Singapore Nurses' Association and Healthcare Services Employees' Union for their comments regarding the recently-announced special payment package.