The Health Ministry should be applauded for all that it is doing to build up community nursing in Singapore - attractive career programme, structural attachment to tertiary hospitals, and flexible working hours (Singapore can learn more about community nursing from Hong Kong; June 29).
With an ageing population, community nurses will be an integral part of the ministry's plans to shift from hospital-centric care to community care.
Community nurses play a critical role in ensuring patients at home get good follow-up treatment and care. The strong bond developed between these nurses and patients is more likely to result in better compliance on the part of patients when it comes to medication and the faster detection of medical complications.
This will translate into fewer admissions into hospitals' accident and emergency departments.
Community nurses, however, face unique challenges which may deter their counterparts in a hospital or clinic from joining them.
Rain or shine, these community nurses have to travel to patients' homes, lugging all their medication, medical consumables and/or clinical notes.
Unlike nurses in a hospital or clinic, community nurses also cannot readily receive medical advice or financial assistance recommendations if their patients require them.
Upon completion of their home rounds, community nurses would still have to update patients' medical conditions in their electronic medical record, replenish medical stocks in their bags at their hospitals and read up patients' records for the next day.
The ministry should look into including a "hardship" component in the overall community nursing salary structure.
Also, I hope the day will come when a community nurse receives the President's Award for Nurses in recognition of the role these nurses play in our society.
Ian Sim Mong Seng