Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister Of State For Health & Manpower At The Healthcare Career Preview for Mid-Career Professionals on 6 September 2014

Mr Ng Cher Pong,
Chief Executive,
Singapore Workforce Development Agency

Mr Ho Hooi Min,
Senior Director,
College of Continuing Education, Nanyang Polytechnic

Dr Lionel Lau, Director,
School of Applied & Health Sciences,
Institute of Technical Education

Ladies and Gentlemen

                I am delighted to join you at this Healthcare Career Preview organised by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, with the support of the Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Polytechnic, and Ministry of Health.  I am happy to see many of you here considering a career in the healthcare sector.  It is a growing industry that offers good career prospects, numerous opportunities to develop professionally, learn new and exciting skills, as well as make a real difference to the lives of others.

Healthcare is a Key Growth Sector

2.              As our population ages, demand for healthcare services will rise. Over the last ten years between 2003 and 2013, we have increased the number of beds in our public acute hospitals, community hospitals and nursing homes by over 30%.   From now until the end of 2020, we will add another 11,000 beds, as well as expand capacity in community and home care services to enable our seniors to age in the comfort of their homes. To achieve these plans, we will continue to grow and invest in our healthcare manpower as well as raise the capabilities of our healthcare professionals.

Opportunities in Nursing

3.              Nurses play a vital role in our healthcare system.  They provide not just clinical care for patients, but also social, emotional and psychological support to them.  Increasingly, nurses are also leading the change in healthcare and taking on greater responsibilities such as instituting first responder interventions, giving specialised nursing treatments and managing chronic diseases.  Nurses are also playing a growing role in the community, whether it is in terms of caring for patients in community care settings, health promotion or disease prevention. 

4.              Last month, the Ministry of Health announced its support for the “CARE” package of recommendations1 by the National Nursing Taskforce to strengthen the development of the nursing profession and empower nurses to take on expanded roles. This includes introducing a new Assistant Nurse Clinician role to enable experienced nurses to take on a clinical leadership role earlier, and empowering nurses to make protocol-based diagnoses and investigations for certain disease profiles and to order treatment. To support nurses in the continuous development of their skills and knowledge, the Ministry will also do more to facilitate the upgrading of Enrolled Nurses to become Registered Nurses, as well as increase funding of sponsorships for our Registered Nurses to pursue advanced diploma, bachelor and even master programmes. In short, nurses can aspire to achieve mastery in their skills and competencies, progress far in their careers, and lead changes within the healthcare system.  It is an exciting time to be a nurse. 

Opportunities in Allied Health

5.              The allied health professionals are another integral group of healthcare professionals. . For example, diagnostic radiographers work with patients using sophisticated medical and computer equipment and a wide range of techniques to produce diagnostic images and perform three-dimensional reconstructions of the body. These images and reconstructions enable the healthcare team to accurately diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. Physiotherapists have expertise in treating musculoskeletal system disorders, and are able to make use of a range of treatment modalities to help patients regain or improve their mobility. Occupational therapists in turn help patients return to their maximum functional capabilities through rehabilitation, use of adaptive equipment, modifications to home and work environment, as well as supporting caregivers through appropriate training.

6.              Like nurses, allied health professionals in the public healthcare sector have diverse professional and career development opportunities. We have worked with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) to launch degree programmes in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, diagnostic radiography and radiation therapy, to enable our diploma-trained allied health professionals to further their skills. This continual learning and development will enable our allied health professionals to manage the care for our patients more holistically, and lead innovations for better patient care.

Making the Switch to Healthcare

7.              Today, the Ministry of Health and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency are partnering the Institute of Technical Education and Nanyang Polytechnic to offer training pathways for mid-career professionals from other sectors to join healthcare. These Healthcare Professional Conversion Programmes or PCPs enable mid-career professionals to obtain the professional qualifications to practise as Enrolled Nurses, Registered Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists or Diagnostic Radiographers. Under the PCPs, your course fees will be fully sponsored and you will also receive monthly allowances throughout your period of training.

8.              We understand that for some of you, making a career switch to healthcare can be a difficult decision.  Besides leaving a sector and a workplace that you are familiar with, you will need to go back to school for two or three years. To make the career switch to healthcare a more viable and attractive option for mid-career professionals, I am pleased to announce two enhancements that will be made to the Healthcare PCPs from Academic Year 2015 onwards.  First, we will raise the monthly training allowances by $200, or between 11-18%. For Registered Nurse and Allied Health trainees, the enhanced monthly allowances will range from $1,700 to $1,900, depending on the years of prior work experience.  For Enrolled Nurse trainees, the enhanced monthly allowances will range from $1,300 to $1,500.

9.              Second, we will give out a new Career Transition Bonus upon the completion of your training, as a way for us to celebrate with you a milestone achievement in your career transitions. This one-time bonus will be $2,000 for Registered Nurse and Allied Health graduates, and $1,500 for Enrolled Nurse graduates. 

10.          Over the years, we have welcomed over 900 mid-career professionals from diverse backgrounds such as sales executives, financial advisors, journalists, teachers, air stewardesses and aircraft maintenance engineers into our healthcare family. Take for example, Ms Nur Jelita Remie. Inspired by the nurses’ selfless dedication to caring for the less privileged during her participation in community projects, Jelita decided to enrol in the PCP for Registered Nurses. Formerly an events manager, Nurse Jelita is now a Senior Staff Nurse at the National University Hospital, assessing, treating and caring for patients with wide-ranging conditions in the Emergency Department. According to Jelita, she likes the adrenaline rush of working in a fast-paced environment that often calls for split-second decisions which can make a difference between the life and death of our patients.  Besides tending to patients, Jelita also mentors junior nurses and teaches nursing students who are doing their clinical postings at the hospital.  Earlier this year, Jelita received the Healthcare Humanity Award, in recognition of her community work, her dedication to teaching the younger nurses, and her selflessness towards her family. 

11.          Another successful mid-career professional is Ms Grace Yeap, who used to teach English and Biology in a secondary school. Her first encounter with diagnostic radiography was an ultrasound scan for her child.  She was fascinated by the images on-screen and wondered how the images translated into different readings, and this piqued her interest in healthcare. With strong support from her family, Grace enrolled in the PCP for Diagnostic Radiographers and graduated among the top in class.  Now a radiographer at the National Healthcare Group Diagnostics, Grace finds satisfaction from knowing that her work helps someone to get better. To her, it is especially heart-warming to see the frail elderly and stroke patients communicate their appreciation through the gaze of their eyes and their body language.  To further advance her skills and knowledge, Grace will be commencing her degree studies in diagnostic radiography later this month.

12.          Besides passion and maturity, many of our mid-career professionals also bring with them valuable knowledge and skills that were gained from their previous work experiences. For instance, Mr Jacky Goh used to work in the real estate industry, helping his clients to lease and operate their properties. Now a physiotherapist at SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled, he is able to use the people skills he acquired in his previous job to engage and help his patients.  To Jacky, it is very satisfying to see his patients' conditions improve over time through his therapy sessions.

13.          We hope that more dedicated and passionate mid-career professionals will consider joining the healthcare sector, to make an impact on the lives of our patients. I am confident that the journey ahead will be fulfilling and rewarding, and I look forward to welcoming you into the healthcare family.

Thank you.

 

1The “CARE” package comprises 15 recommendations in four areas: Career development, Autonomy, Recognition and Education.

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