Plans to expand job scope of nurses

Nurses in a 5-bedded ward at Singapore General Hospital on Feb 20, 2017. The Ministry of Health is considering giving nurses the authority to perform tasks typically carried out by doctors.
Nurses in a 5-bedded ward at Singapore General Hospital on Feb 20, 2017. The Ministry of Health is considering giving nurses the authority to perform tasks typically carried out by doctors.PHOTO: ST FILE

Nurses will get the chance to make full use of their skills in the coming years, following a Ministry of Health decision to review the rules governing their roles.

This includes giving them the authority to perform tasks typically carried out by doctors, as well as expanding their job scopes to cover more complex duties.

The planned changes were announced by Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat yesterday, in a speech on the importance of education in healthcare.

The ministry decided on the changes after discussions with healthcare workers and the Healthcare Services Employees' Union, he said at the opening of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Education Conference, which ends today.

"By allowing all groups of professionals to practise at the top of their licences, we will maximise the potential and contributions of our healthcare workforce," Mr Chee added.

The ministry plans to amend its policies so that advanced practice nurses and registered therapists can make the call on whether seniors are suitable for rehabilitation in the community.

Advanced practice nurses are highly qualified and typically have master's degrees in nursing.

Currently, this assessment must be done by doctors in specialist outpatient clinics (SOCs).

"This will make it more convenient for seniors when they receive rehabilitation care... It also benefits the SOCs as they can focus on other patients with more pressing healthcare needs," Mr Chee said.

He added that there will be a review to see if the list can be expanded to include other types of nurses in the future.

The ministry also plans to allow advanced practice nurses and pharmacists to prescribe medication in collaboration with doctors.

Enrolled nurses - those on the lowest tier - will also be allowed to perform more complex duties, such as administering oral medication and injections. These tasks are currently performed by registered nurses, who are one level up.

"I think it's a good opportunity because after 14 years of nursing, I wouldn't want to be stagnant in one role," said Ms Chua Lee Yan, 36, a principal enrolled nurse at Singapore General Hospital.

She looks forward especially to being able to answer patients' questions on their medication, which she is currently not qualified to do.

"I want to learn more skills so that I can do more things," she said. "It's about job satisfaction and providing more holistic care."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'Plans to expand job scope of nurses'. Print Edition | Subscribe