3 February 2018
Accelerated pathway trains graduates for careers in nursing.
To enable more mid-career professionals to join the healthcare sector as nurses, NUS Nursing is starting a two-year nursing degree programme this July. The two-year Bachelor of Science (Nursing) programme is offered under the Ministry of Health and Workforce Singapore’s degree level Professional Conversion Programme for Registered Nurses.
Under the Programme, course fees of S$74,500 will be fully sponsored and trainees will receive training allowances of $2,170 to $2,520 per month throughout the two years of study. Upon graduation, they will be given a one-time Career Transition Bonus of $2,000. Employers will also receive an on-the-job training incentive of $18,000 per mid-career degree trained Registered Nurse.
The two-year full-time programme is designed to meet accreditation standards of the Singapore Nursing Board. The rigorous and intense programme has 22 modules to equip students with nursing theory and concepts, as well as 1,320 hours of clinical experience in community and hospital / healthcare settings to translate nursing knowledge into practice.
Said Prof Emily Ang, Head of NUS Nursing: "While the course runs for just two years, it is an intensive and thoroughly absorbing one. We have taken care to ensure students receive the same thorough grounding in the key nursing disciplines as the regular BSc (Nursing) programme, and are equipped to work competently in the wards and clinics alongside nursing and medical colleagues."
About 100 participants attended the career preview to launch the new programme. At the preview, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, caught up with nurses who made a mid-career switch. One of them is Lim Han Kee, 38, a Nurse Manager at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, who worked as a Laboratory Technologist for two years before switching to nursing, a career he felt better suited him as it involved more interaction with people.
“Nursing has a structured career advancement pathway, good training opportunities and competitive salaries,” said Han Kee.
Another mid-career switcher is Ong Teng Teng, 42, a Year 2 Student at NUS Nursing. Teng Teng, a flight stewardess with Singapore Airlines for 10 years, gave up her sarong kebaya to start a family, and was inspired to join the nursing profession by the nurses who took care of her newborn son during his illness. She took up a nursing course at the Institute of Technical Education in 2008, graduated with a Diploma in Nursing in 2013, and at 40, enrolled for her first degree at NUS Nursing in 2016.
She said: ‘The diversity and breadth of nursing work now allows nurses to hone different expertise in different specialisations. With a degree specialisation, more mid-career professionals will be attracted to nursing.”
Dr Shefaly Shorey, Assistant Professor at NUS Nursing, who was an ex-school teacher, also made a career switch to nursing 13 years ago, after being touched by the care her terminally ill grandmother-in-law received from nurses.
“An NUS Nursing degree prepares students to be future nursing leaders – better critical thinkers, better communicators, and better clinical decision-makers,” she said.
As part of the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, NUS Nursing has educated and trained nursing leaders and advanced practice nurses for more than a decade. Since it was set up in 2005 to offer Singapore’s only nursing degree programme for school-leavers, it has graduated over 900 baccalaureate, masters and PHD nurses who have gone on to hold nursing, advanced practice nursing and leadership positions in Singapore’s healthcare industry.
As one of the handful of mature-entry students enrolled at NUS Nursing, third-year student Liu Li Wei, 35, sometimes feels like a square peg in a round hole.
In his first year at nursing school, he experienced his first culture shock when he found himself surrounded by classmates not much older than the Secondary 5 students he used to teach in his six years as a secondary school math and science teacher.
“I had to rewire my brain to treat them as my friends, and not the students I was so used to disciplining,” said Li Wei.
Next, he had to live up to the higher expectations lecturers and clinical instructors had of mature students, despite his lack of prior nursing experience.
Ageist views were also more prevalent in nursing than in teaching, and he found his age used many times as conversation starters at clinicals. People also naturally assume he is taking a Masters or PhD instead of a degree.
“No one would bat an eyelid at a mid-career professional undergoing training to be a teacher in a second career,” he said, “but in nursing school I was a novelty.”
Li Wei is taking nursing to be able to journey with his dad, a dialysis patient for the past six years.
His father’s diagnosis was a wake-up call for the NUS Life Science (Hons) graduate, who at the height of his career was an award-winning educator holding many portfolios.
“I took a step back from my career to put my family first,” he explained.
As the eldest in the family, he thinks being his dad’s main caregiver is a responsibility he can shoulder on behalf of his homemaker mom and his younger twin brothers, who are still establishing their careers.
While nursing school has been tough, the radical changes his taxi-driver dad made to extend his life span, such as altering his lifestyle habits, spurs him on.
“My dad never used to exercise, but now he climbs Bukit Timah Hill on non-dialysis days,” he said.
With his nursing background, Li Wei can now better understand his dad’s needs as a patient. On hospital appointments, he plays the crucial roles of communicator with medical staff and translator of medical jargon to language his dad understands and advice he heeds.
“I hope to further specialise in renal nursing after graduation, so that I can home nurse and help my dad cope with the toll the later stages of dialysis will take on his health,” he said. He is seeking a job with the National Kidney Foundation, and has also applied to NUH’s renal unit for his last transition practice.
I had to rewire my brain to treat (my classmates) as my friends, and not the students I was so used to disciplining.
Three years since he embarked on his nursing studies, the fish-out-of-water feeling has since ebbed. He has also learnt a lot from his younger classmates, including picking up lingo – such as FOMO (Fear of Missing out) – that he said would help him better identify with and relate to his ex-students.
Along the way, there have also been many light-hearted moments, such as when his classmates wanted to match-make him with their parent.
“I was very amused and I asked them, ‘Do you want me to be your stepfather?’” he recalled.
With mature students joining nursing school, Li Wei thinks both students and teachers have to change their mindsets. “The clinical instructors should go easy on mature students and remember that skills wise, they also start from ground zero.”
His advice to mid-career students? “Stay youthful and don’t isolate yourself,” he said.