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Enhanced scheme draws nurses back to work in community care

SINGAPORE — Inspired by the care that nurses and doctors had given her mother during the final stage of her cancer, former polyclinic nurse Sandra Foo decided to return to nursing to offer palliative care.

Nurse Educator Cheah Le Le (green) conducting the enhanced RTN refresher course for Sandra Foo Tee Peng (in pink). Photo: Wee Teck Hian

Nurse Educator Cheah Le Le (green) conducting the enhanced RTN refresher course for Sandra Foo Tee Peng (in pink). Photo: Wee Teck Hian

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SINGAPORE — Inspired by the care that nurses and doctors had given her mother during the final stage of her cancer, former polyclinic nurse Sandra Foo decided to return to nursing to offer palliative care.

Madam Foo, 46, who will be joining the St Joseph’s Home for the aged, had stopped working for six years to look after her children, now in their teens.

Even with her training in gerontology (the study of problems related to ageing) and nine years of experience, she felt a little out of touch with new technology and in handling dementia patients.

This is precisely the skills gap that the enhanced Return-to-Nursing scheme intends to bridge in order to attract non-practising nurses to return to work in healthcare.

The scheme was first launched by the Health Ministry in 2000, but enhancements such as a higher monthly training allowance and a new bonus for those joining the community care sector were implemented in April after the Budget.

Returning nurses who have not practised for five years or more and are hired by a community care provider will undergo a three-month course under the scheme to refresh their knowledge and skills, and to learn more about chronic disease, as well as geriatric and palliative care.

They have a month of classroom training with SingHealth Alice Lee Institute of Advance Nursing (IAN) or the National University Hospital, followed by two months of on-the-job training with their employer.

Ms Cheah Le Le, a senior nurse educator at SingHealth IAN, said that the training also includes looking at the nurses’ overall wellbeing and helping them through their concerns.

During this period, the nurses rely on a monthly training allowance, which is raised to S$1,500 for enrolled nurses and S$2,000 for registered nurses — up from S$1,100 and S$1,500 respectively.

They also get a new one-time bonus of S$3,000 (enrolled nurses) and S$5,000 (registered nurses) for joining the community care sector.

Since April, 19 nurses have signed up for this enhanced scheme.

Ms Teo Sio Hoon, chief of the manpower development and resourcing division (intermediate and long-term care) at the Agency for Integrated Care, which administers the scheme, said that non-practising nurses could help to build the nursing capabilities of the community care organisations, or conduct training as a nurse educator.

“Furthermore, the community care sector offers these returning nurses opportunities for job flexibility and deeper, more meaningful nurse-patient interactions,” Ms Teo said.

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