New two-year degree course for aspiring mid-career nurses

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ST VIDEO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - To encourage more locals to join the healthcare sector, Singaporeans can now make a mid-career switch to nursing - and get a degree - in two years.

The new degree-level Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Registered Nurses, administered by the National University of Singapore (NUS), was launched at a career preview fair on Saturday (Feb 3) and is targeted at those who already have degrees in other disciplines.

The latest offering is in addition to an existing two-year accelerated course for registered nurses at the diploma level, conducted by Nanyang Polytechnic.

Launching the programme, whose first intake begins in July this year, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor noted a growing interest in nursing. The total nursing intake has expanded by a third from 1,500 in 2012 to around 2,000 last year, she said.

"This is aligned with the Ministry of Health's effort to build a strong local core of nurses in the healthcare workforce as we face an ageing population and rising incidence of chronic diseases," she said. About a third of the some 34,000 nurses here are foreigners, and the government has planned to add about another 3,000 nursing jobs from 2017 to 2019.

Successful candidates will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the NUS Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies. About 15 to 20 people will be shortlisted, about 10 per cent of the cohort for the usual three-year programme for fresh school leavers.

The $74,500 course fees are fully funded by the MOH and Workforce Singapore (WSG), and trainees also receive allowances of $2,170 to $2,520 a month throughout the two years of training. Upon graduation, they also receive a one-time bonus of $2,000. They must also serve a three-year bond with MOH Holdings, the holding company of Singapore's public healthcare entities.

Employers also receive an $18,000 incentive for each nurse, to better support them in their transition to a new career.

More than 1,000 mid-career professionals have undergone healthcare PCPs since they were launched in 2003. Of these, 800 were in nursing, while 200 went on to be allied health professionals.

NUS nursing assistant professor Shefaly Shorey, 38, herself a graduate of the nursing diploma PCP 12 years ago, said it was "high time" a degree-level course be rolled out.

Previously a science teacher with a Masters in Biological Science, Dr Shorey faced some opposition from family members who had questioned her decision to "downgrade" to a diploma.

"This course nudges those who might have higher qualifications but are concerned about the transition - whether it's about money or time - in the right direction," she said.

WSG chief executive Tan Choon Shian said the newest PCP is part of the agency's effort to tap on various manpower sources in the labour market.

"This is especially important as we strive to meet growing manpower needs in the growth sectors such as healthcare, and help mid-career Singaporeans take on new job opportunities in these growth sectors," he said.

Among the 100 attendees at the career fair yesterday was automation engineer Willy Lim, 50.

Said Mr Lim: "I have worked on machines for the last 30 years, I thought it would be good to serve humans for a change."

Applications for the new degree are open till 2 March. Interested applicants can visithttp://www.wsg.gov.sg/programmes-and-initiatives/professional-conversio… to find out more.

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