An international "superhero" congress is being held in Singapore for the first time.
That is what President Halimah Yacob called the International Council of Nurses' (ICN) biennial congress, which opened at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Marina Bay Sands yesterday.
The "heroes" are the more than 5,000 nurses and nursing professionals from around the world who are in the Republic for the 120-year-old event.
Addressing the crowd of nurses, healthcare policymakers and professionals, Madam Halimah said nurses are the backbone of healthcare systems and play an important role in transforming healthcare.
In Singapore, for example, nurses have been critical in shifting the healthcare system to one that is more focused on health promotion and providing healthcare in community settings, she said.
"In a changing world marked by structural demographic shifts, ongoing healthcare system transformation and rapid technology advances, nurses deserve more than a pat on the back," she said.
They must be supported when they rise to challenges and seize new opportunities, and there needs to be a commitment to nurture the nursing workforce, added Madam Halimah, who observed that nurses in many institutions still find much of their time consumed by administrative tasks.
More can be done, said the President, urging healthcare and nursing leaders to encourage a "more pervasive use of technology" and to redesign work so that nurses can focus their time and skills on their core nursing roles. For example, effective patient monitoring and information recording devices can relieve the burden on nurses, and allow them to focus on their more critical tasks.
"Technology can be an enabler for nurses and nursing," said Madam Halimah.
The five-day conference for nursing professionals will feature talks and presentations by healthcare policy makers and practitioners.
Associate Professor Lim Swee Hia, president of the Singapore Nurses Association, said the event is a rare opportunity for Singapore's nurses to rub shoulders with and learn from international counterparts from more than 130 countries. The theme for this year's conference is Beyond Healthcare to Health. Prof Lim said she is looking forward to learning more about how other countries are managing the healthcare needs of their ageing populations.
In her speech, Madam Halimah also lauded the nurses for having the passion, resilience and stamina to carry out their roles.
She said: "Save one life, and you're a hero. Save a hundred lives and you must be a nurse. It is an honour to be among so many heroes this evening."