During the Budget 2023 debate yesterday, People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng highlighted the issue of overworked nurses and the need for better work-life balance and support to avoid burnout.

Despite higher pay, he said, nurses are reportedly resigning en masse, indicating that there are other critical factors that need to be addressed.

Mr Ng presented three recommendations to the government to address the issue.

Firstly, he suggested regulating rest time for nurses between shifts, similar to what has been done for airline crew, as fatigue management is critical for their well-being and patient safety.

Secondly, he called for hospitals to ensure that nurses’ rest time during shifts is protected.

Thirdly, he suggested providing ancillary staff to help with customer service and administrative duties, allowing nurses to focus on clinical work.

Mr Ng also emphasized that the current ratio of one nurse to four or five patients in public hospitals must be enforced, as it is “far, far” from the reality on the ground. The shortage of manpower means that nurses are often overworked and unable to take adequate rest, leading to burnout and other related issues.

However, are nurses getting higher pay, as Mr Ng claims?

For those who are curious as to what is the pay of nurses, online statistics reveal that the average salary for a nursing assistant in Singapore is around $1,700 to $1,900 per month.

  1. Nursing Assistant (July, 2022) – Salaries – Glassdoor” The national average salary for a Nursing Assistant is $1,650 in Singapore.
  2. Nursing Aide / Nursing Assistant Working Hours: 2 shifts (6am – 2pm / 1.30pm – 9.30pm) Working days: 6 days (rotating off day) Location: YishunSalary Range: $1,750 – $2,600″
  3. Average Nurse Assistant Salary in Singapore – Salary 29 Dec 2020 — The average annual salary for a Nurse Assistant in Singapore is S$17592.”
  4. Assistant Nurse Salary — Assistant Nurse Salary. The average assistant nurse gross salary is S$1,717 per month or S$13.86 per hour (S$24,246 per annum).”

After deducting employee CPF contributions of around 20%, the typical starting take-home pay of an assistant nurse may be less than $1,360.

And given the pay shown online, isn’t the root cause of the problem the low pay of nurses, contrary to what Mr Ng is suggesting?

Nurses are crucial frontline workers who work tirelessly to care for patients, and they should be adequately compensated for their hard work and dedication. When nurses are overworked and underpaid, they may become demotivated and eventually leave the profession. This would only exacerbate the problem of understaffing and lead to a vicious cycle of overworked nurses and a shortage of manpower.

To attract and retain nurses, it is essential to offer them fair compensation and benefits. The phased increases of 5% to 14% in nurse’s base salaries over 2021 and 2022 announced by the government is a step in the right direction.

However, more needs to be done to ensure that nurses are adequately compensated.

While mandating protected rest time may provide some relief, it may not address the underlying issue of the low pay of nurses.

Nurses are crucial frontline workers, and they should be adequately compensated for their hard work and dedication.

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