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More to be done to attract Singaporeans to be nurses

By Ravi Philemon

Wading into the issue of foreign nurses in Singapore. Do we need foreign nurses? Absolutely!

Many first-world countries around the world are grappling with the problems of high turnover rates and shortage of nurses. Singapore is no exception. Sadly, Singapore has lost a good number of our local nurses to countries like Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom - perhaps forever.

Why? I suspect the main reason is, they want dignity and not be treated like lowly-skilled workers. Nurses in Singapore are overworked, working long and irregular hours, leaving them very little time for their own families and leisure. And their income do not match the hard work that is required from them.

As long as this situation persists, it will be that much more difficult to attract more Singaporeans to take up this job, meaning we will be forever dependent on foreigners in this area.

But being so, puts us on a vicious cycle where remuneration of nurses are artificially suppressed by foreign nurses who demand less but are willing to do much more and work longer hours.

There is a pressing need for the Government to address the problem of shortfall of local nurses at policy-level, with new lenses and mindsets. I suspect that a better lid can be put on the problem by the Government spending more to further increase salaries of nurses, mandating working hours to ensure their work/life balance is not compromised, and giving them better protection from overly-demanding patients and doctors.