Number of students taking up nursing going up gradually: MOH
MOH continues to try to raise interest in career as more healthcare facilities open
When he was a teenager, Mr Toh Zheng An wanted to be a nurse after seeing the care his mother received when she was hospitalised with a critical illness.
But his father regarded nursing as a job for women, so Mr Toh took up engineering at Nanyang Polytechnic.
But his original ambition persisted and after one semester, he switched to nursing.
Again, his father's unhappiness made him sidestep a nursing career in favour of health management and promotion at Republic Polytechnic.
But nursing remained his goal, so upon getting his diploma, he applied for and received the Healthcare Merit Award to study nursing at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
He did a stint early last year, following nurses on their rounds "to make sure that nursing really is for me", he said.
The stint convinced him.
The 24-year-old is one of the estimated 2,000 students who took up nursing last year. This is a third more than the 1,500 who took up nursing courses in 2012.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the number of students taking up nursing has been rising gradually.
It has been trying to raise interest in nursing as a career, given the large number of nurses Singapore will need as more healthcare facilities, such as Sengkang General Hospital, are opened later this year.
Today, 10,000 nurses - roughly a third of the total here - are foreigners.
The largest group of foreign nurses is from the Philippines, followed by Malaysia and China.
Not all of the 2,000 students who took up nursing here last year are locals, though they form more than 70 per cent of the cohort each year. The rest are largely Malaysians, a ministry spokesman said.
There is also an increasing trend of students taking higher-level courses.
Last year, about 490 students took up nursing at Institutes of Technical Education (ITEs), 1,340 at polytechnics and 230 at NUS.
Nursing graduates from ITEs, who are qualified as enrolled nurses, earn a starting pay of about $1,750 a month.
Of last year's polytechnic intake, 14 per cent were enrolled nurses upgrading to become registered nurses, who earn a gross median starting pay of $2,400.
University graduates generally start with a gross salary of $3,400.
To attract more and better-qualified people, MOH has been offering more nursing scholarships, worth about $150,000 for local studies and about $350,000 for studies overseas.
Ms Lois Si took up an Integrated Nursing Scholarship, which covers her for a three-year diploma course, followed by 19 months at the Singapore Institute of Technology or one year at a foreign university.
She wanted to be a nurse since she was five, after her father was involved in an accident and she saw how well he was looked after.
She hopes to become a nurse educator, helping others learn, not just with their hands but also with their hearts.
Scholarships available to students keen on taking up nursing
The Ministry of Health Holdings offers four nursing scholarships and one award. All of them pay tuition fees as well as approved developmental activities.
Recipients also receive a monthly allowance.
INTEGRATED NURSING SCHOLARSHIP
This is for outstanding O-level graduates who have shown leadership potential.
After three years at a polytechnic, they will continue with a degree course - either 19 months at the Singapore Institute of Technology or a year at a university overseas. Applications close on Feb 15.
COMMUNITY NURSING SCHOLARSHIP
This is for both O- and A-level graduates, as well as student nurses and nurses in service who are interested in providing community care.
The scholarship is for both diploma and degree courses. Applications are open till March 31.
HEALTHCARE MERIT SCHOLARSHIP AND AWARD
This is for A-level or polytechnic graduates to pursue a nursing degree locally.
The award is for students who have completed at least one semester of studies.
Applications for the scholarship are open till March 15, and for the award, till March 31.
HEALTHCARE GRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP
This is for graduates of other disciplines with at least a second upper honours degree.
They will be sponsored for a master's programme in nursing at overseas universities.
Applications are open till May 12.
- SALMA KHALIK