As an enrolled nurse at the Singapore General Hospital, Ms Nur Rimma Mohd Ali, 32, handles what are known as patients' activities of daily living - basic needs such as bathing and toileting.
She has done this since she graduated from the Institute of Technical Education with a Nitec in nursing in 2005.
However, Ms Nur Rimma may soon be able to manage more of patients' medical needs, including administering medications and putting in intravenous lines.
She is one of about 2,000 nurses here who can now upgrade from enrolled to registered nurses after a requirement that blocked them from doing so was removed.
A Nitec in nursing qualifies a nurse as an enrolled nurse, while a polytechnic diploma qualifies one as a registered nurse. Registered nurses handle more medical duties than enrolled nurses, who assist registered nurses and manage activities of daily living.
Enrolled nurses can be admitted into diploma courses to become registered nurses if they obtained a Nitec with a grade point average (GPA) over 3.0. For those with GPAs between 2.8 and 3.0, the Certificate in Bridging Studies for Enrolled Nurses (CBSEN) was introduced in 2010 to bridge the gap between the two qualifications.
Those who pass the 16-week CBSEN are eligible to enter a diploma course to become certified registered nurses. But those with a lower GPA had this path blocked till recently. On the recommendation of the National Nursing Taskforce, enrolled nurses who graduated with a GPA under 2.8 are now eligible for the CBSEN if they have at least three years' experience and an employer testimonial.
Demand has been high. Speaking at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where the CBSEN was introduced this year after being available at Nanyang Polytechnic since 2010, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health Amy Khor said yesterday that four times as many students had signed up for the course this year than last year. About 80 per cent would have been ineligible under the old criteria.
As one of them, Ms Nur Rimma said it is challenging to go back to school but she is looking forward to becoming a full-fledged staff nurse.