Starting this year, enrolled nurses who did well during their Institute of Technical Education (ITE) training can apply for a shorter diploma programme to become registered nurses, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced in Parliament yesterday.
The new 2+2 Diploma in Nursing will let nurses graduate in two years instead of 2½ years.
It will be offered at Nanyang Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic to ITE graduates with a grade point average of at least 3.5.
The move comes as demand for nurses is set to grow. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the number of registered nurses has risen significantly. There were 29,340 of them in 2010, and 42,215 last year.
"While we had a record local nursing intake of over 2,100 students last year, we will still need more, especially in the critical community care sector," Mr Gan added.
More are also joining the profession mid-career, with 130 individuals enrolling in Healthcare Professional Conversion Programmes last year, the highest intake in 10 years.
Dr Khor said the Ministry of Health will set up the National Nursing Academy (NNA) to support continued learning for nurses across healthcare institutions, schools and training providers. It will operate as a virtual network and will oversee continuing education and training efforts, as well as provide an online platform for nurses to access courses and learning opportunities.
Many healthcare providers have in-house training programmes currently, but these are often not recognised by or transferable across different institutions, she said.
"The NNA will accredit and strengthen the quality of workplace-based training and develop a system to recognise the skills and competencies attained by a nurse at the workplace. This will make the skills portable and stackable to advance nurses' careers and professional practice across healthcare institutions and settings."
Dr Khor added the NNA's efforts will benefit all nurses and healthcare providers.
A Skills Framework for Healthcare will map out roles, competencies and training for physiotherapists, pharmacy technicians and other health sector professionals.