More nurses taking on doctors' responsibilities

A nurse practises cryotherapy - warts treatment - at the NSC, a task previously done by a doctor. There has been an increase in the number of nurse-run clinics under the NHG, with the number almost doubling since 2012.
A nurse practises cryotherapy - warts treatment - at the NSC, a task previously done by a doctor. There has been an increase in the number of nurse-run clinics under the NHG, with the number almost doubling since 2012. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Move has reduced wait times for patients and freed up doctors for more complex cases

More nurses here are taking on greater responsibilities, including those previously handled by doctors.

Since 2012, the National Healthcare Group (NHG) has seen a rise in the number of nurse-led clinics, which are run by registered nurses or advanced practice nurses - senior nurses who have at least a master's degree in nursing.

There are now 31 clinics operated and managed by advanced practice nurses - more than double the number in 2012. These are located across NHG institutions, such as Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the Institute of Mental Health and six of the nine polyclinics here.

At the National Skin Centre (NSC), registered nurses have run the cryotherapy clinic - also known as the warts clinic - and the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Clinic (DSC) since 2012.

Nurses at the cryotherapy clinic both manage and provide treatment to patients with warts. They can also stop treatment and give open dates to patients once they have recovered. These duties were previously done only by doctors.

Similarly, at the DSC, nurses screen patients and are trained to detect symptoms of sexually transmitted infections. They have taken over doctors' duties in ordering blood tests and vaccinations for patients.

The increase in nurse-run clinics has benefited patients, doctors and nurses themselves, said NSC's head of nursing Brenda Lim. Costs and waiting times for patients have been reduced, while doctors are freed up to focus on more complex cases.

Nurses also receive more specialised training and opportunities for career progression and have more time to build rapport with patients.

"They have more time to talk to patients... and explain to them how to prevent their (illness) from happening again," said Ms Lim.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'More nurses taking on doctors' responsibilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe