In the light of the growing ageing population here, Singapore definitely needs more healthcare professionals, including nurses, to work in the many new healthcare facilities in the pipeline.
While efforts have been made in the past to attract local students into the nursing sector, the results have been mixed at best, as can be seen by the many foreign-trained nurses working in our hospitals.
To attract more young male Singaporeans into nursing, the Government should allow full-time national servicemen who have been accepted into nursing courses in local universities to be granted deferment from their national service for their undergraduate studies, just like their counterparts who have been accepted to study medicine in local universities.
Upon completing their studies, these nurses should get posted back to the SAF Medical Training Institute. They can then be trained to become military medics before getting posted to a Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force or Singapore Civil Defence Force-related medical facility according to demand, where they can complete their NS.
Nurses under this deferment scheme could additionally be bonded to the Government and be required to serve several years in the public healthcare sector after completing NS.
Such a deferment scheme for prospective male nursing students would significantly contribute towards meeting the increasing demand for nurses.
The lure of deferment could potentially lead many to apply for the nursing programme, so that admissions officers can afford to pick the creme de la creme among the applicants for nursing courses, improving both the quality of nurses as well as the prestige of the nursing profession.
Also, in the light of the recent tragic deaths of NSFs, there is a need for better-trained, better-equipped and more experienced medical personnel within the SAF, and nursing graduates can meet this need.
This scheme comes at no additional cost to the Government or institutions involved, and should be considered for implementation.
Elliot Tan Tsien Yao