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Inspired by nursing care of his ailing parents, ex-civil servant switches to growing healthcare sector

SINGAPORE — Since he was young, Mr Mohamad Zaid Rahmat has always admired nurses, such as his cousins, for their steadfast dedication to their profession.

Inspired by nursing care of his ailing parents, ex-civil servant switches to growing healthcare sector

Mid-career nursing student Mohamad Zaid Rahmat at the Centre for Healthcare Simulation at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine on Dec 10, 2020.

  • ​Close to 6,700 jobs, traineeships, attachments and training courses are on offer in the healthcare sector
  • Among the approximately 5,500 job openings, a majority are for long-term roles
  • The healthcare sector has been growing due to Singapore’s healthcare needs and its ageing population, noted Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing
  • About 8,340 jobseekers were placed into jobs, traineeships and attachments, or enrolled in training places in healthcare between April and end-November

 

SINGAPORE — Since he was young, Mr Mohamad Zaid Rahmat has always admired nurses, such as his cousins, for their steadfast dedication to their profession.

In fact, the 34-year-old once even contemplated dropping out of his real estate degree course in the second year of his undergraduate studies, only to be dissuaded from doing so by his mother.

Mr Zaid went on to join the civil service where he helped plan and manage the budget for a government organisation.

However, in recent years, a series of events reignited his determination to join the more than 100,000 healthcare professionals across both public and private sectors — and he took the plunge. 

Mid-career nursing student Mohamad Zaid Rahmat (centre) during a simulation session on emergency nursing care. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

His mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and survived, while his late father spent his last 49 days in hospital due a leg infection that resulted in an amputation.

“Seeing how the nurses cared for my parents... I decided to make the switch,” said Mr Zaid, who joined the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP), an initiative that helps Singaporeans to make the transition to a career in healthcare.

He said the nurses’ care for his parents had inspired him to want to show the same level of care to others and make a difference in their lives.

The latest Jobs Situation Report — the 15th edition — showed that close to 6,700 jobs, traineeships, attachments and training courses were still available in the healthcare sector as at end-November, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (Dec 10).

Among nearly 5,500 job openings, a majority are for long-term roles — of which 30 per cent are in healthcare professional and executive roles such as nurses, allied health professionals, and finance and human resources executives.

The remaining 70 per cent of roles are in healthcare support and administrative support, such as healthcare assistants, therapy assistants and patient service associates.

More than 80 per cent of the job vacancies are offered by public healthcare clusters such as SingHealth and the National University Health System, while the remaining slots are offered by private organisations such as Parkway Hospitals Singapore and Healthway Medical Group, among others.

Mr Zaid joined the second batch of the PCP for registered nurses at the National University of Singapore’s Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies (NUS Nursing) in 2019.

The students ranged in age from 24 to 55 and came from diverse backgrounds; one of his fellow coursemates was a polytechnic lecturer while another was in the oil and gas industry.

They initially found the course challenging due to the medical jargon, but they quickly got used to it.

“Most of us were starting from scratch,” said Mr Zaid, who gave credit to his passionate coursemates, family and friends for helping him cope with the adjustment.

“Despite the challenges I had to overcome, the knowledge I acquired and the friendships forged are something that I will treasure,” said Mr Zaid, who graduates in July next year and hopes to work in the emergency department someday as that is “where the action is”.

WHY IT MATTERS

Even leaving aside the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused a temporary rise in demand for manpower, the healthcare sector has been growing due to Singapore’s healthcare needs and its ageing population, noted Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Thursday.

To meet this demand, Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon added that the industry will need to employ a lot of healthcare professionals to work within sectors such as outpatient care, acute care and long-term care.

“Healthcare is beyond just technology or medication. It is about people delivering the care, and providing comfort as well. The (human) touch is very important,” said Dr Koh, after a visit to NUS Nursing with Mr Chan and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Consequently, it is important that Singapore builds up a “future-ready healthcare workforce”, Mrs Teo said to members of the media during a virtual press conference. 

However, she acknowledged that some Singaporeans may feel daunted by the “high level of commitment” demanded by the profession, with training durations that could be longer than usual.

One way the Government is hoping to overcome this is by giving jobseekers more opportunities to “get a sense of what is really required, and to test it out to see whether it is suitable for them” through traineeships and attachment opportunities, she said.

As for those considering a mid-career switch, who may have had zero prior exposure to the healthcare sector, Mrs Teo said that the soft skills they picked up in their old careers — such as problem solving, teamwork and communication skills — will always be relevant.

The domain knowledge — what to do in a clinical setting, the protocols to observe or even technical skills — can be taught, and there is “every opportunity to do so”, said Mrs Teo, who was referring to initiatives such as the PCP.

WHAT ROLES ARE AVAILABLE

In the close to 6,700 openings offered by the healthcare sector:

  • About 4,080 vacancies are long-term roles

  • About 1,390 spots are short-term jobs which include swabbers, swab assistants and care ambassadors

  • About 470 are company-hosted traineeships and attachments 

  • Around 760 slots have been made available for training opportunities in healthcare professional and executive roles, as well as healthcare support and administrative support roles

The report stated that between April and the end of November, close to 8,340 jobseekers were placed into jobs, company-hosted traineeships and attachments, as well as enrolled in training places in the healthcare sector.

This number includes about 4,100 placements for Covid-19 operational roles such as swabbers or swabbing assistants.

The healthcare sector has the second highest openings under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, after infocomm and communications technology.

To increase access for jobseekers in the healthcare industry, the Government and the industry has put in place several initiatives which include: 

  • Plans to cater to mid-career switchers wishing to enter nursing and allied health roles by opening up training capacity of 900 places over the next three years

  • Encouraging anyone considering a career in dental assisting to utilise Workforce Singapore’s Place-and-Train Programme for Dental Surgery Assistants to gain the relevant skills required

  • Hiring mid-career locals to take on leadership or managerial roles in community care organisation through the Senior Management Associate Scheme offered by the Agency for Integrated Care

  • Attracting more locals to join the sector by introducing new roles that blend clinical support, administrative and operations responsibilities in the various healthcare settings

  • Allowing fresh graduates and mid-career individuals, without prior experience in healthcare, to acquire the experience and skills needed through traineeships, attachments and skills training

  • Stepping up on outreach activities to inform the public about the opportunities available in the healthcare sector. 

HOW MUCH THE INDUSTRY PAYS

MOM gave some details on the monthly salary range for various roles within the industry:

  • For enrolled or registered nurses, the monthly pay ranges from S$3,300 to S$5,200

  • Allied health professionals can earn between S$4,100 and S$5,000 a month

  • Administrative or corporate function roles pay between S$3,500 and S$6,200 a month

  • Patient service associates earn between S$2,400 and S$3,000 a month

  • Support care roles, which include healthcare and therapy assistants, pay between S$1,800 and S$2,300 a month

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