Against the global shortage of health workers, among whom nurses and midwives account for half the number, there is an urgent need to ensure such resources are used well. The largest needs-based shortages are in South-east Asia (as well as Africa), according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Thus, Singapore needs to bear in mind that it will not be easy to recruit from the region to meet shortfalls as the population ages and spurs greater healthcare demands. Given the supply-side challenges, it's important to examine whether healthcare systems are functioning properly so that nurses are able to use their patient-care skills effectively.
Nurses play multiple roles in delivering primary, acute and community care; managing and preventing the spread of disease and infection; and promoting public health. Often they are the first point of contact when a health assessment is required, and sometimes the only healthcare professional seen when low-key treatment is in order. As such, they are very much "part of their local community... and can shape and deliver effective interventions to meet the needs of patients, families and communities", says WHO.