More applying to make mid-career switch to nursing via professional conversion programme

SINGAPORE – More people are looking to switch careers and become a nurse through a professional conversion programme for mid-career individuals.

The number of applicants for Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Registered Nurses (Diploma) has increased nearly threefold for the upcoming October intake, compared to that for the April intake this year.

In contrast, application numbers from the past few intakes for the programme have “generally been stable”, said WSG’s director of the healthcare, social and business services division, Ms Safrah Eusoof.

One of the reasons for the rising interest in nursing among mid-career individuals could be due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which created more awareness and appreciation of nursing as a career, said Ms Eusoof.

Another reason could be publicity efforts between WSG and the Ministry of Health (MOH) to feature successful mid-career individuals who have made the transition into nursing, she added.

The programme was originally introduced in 2003 as the Strategic Manpower Conversion Programme, then later re-branded as the PCP for Registered Nurses (Diploma) in 2008.

The degree equivalent of the programme was launched in 2018.

In 2014, the current PCP for Enrolled Nurses replaced the previous place-and-train programme for Enrolled Nurses, which was introduced in 2006.

Since 2003, more than 1,350 mid-career Singaporeans and permanent residents have participated in the three programmes, including 70 who enrolled this year, said WSG.

One of them is Mr Nigel Leong, who at 48 years old is finally pursuing his first passion, nearly three decades after he was dissuaded by his parents from taking a degree in nursing.

This year, the former regional quality manager at a multinational company tendered his resignation and took a significant pay cut to join WSG’s Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Registered Nurses (Degree) in April.

Mr Nigel Leong is finally pursuing his first passion nearly 30 years after he was dissuaded from taking a degree in nursing. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

He turned down lucrative job offers from other companies, including one that would allow him to relocate to Switzerland, and decided to make the switch to nursing to contribute back to society.

Mr Leong, who is single, is expected to graduate from the National University of Singapore’s Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies in 2022 as a staff nurse working for SingHealth Community Hospitals (SCH).

He is one of 18 participants of the PCP for Registered Nurses who have been sponsored by SCH. Of this group, six nurses have started work at the three community hospitals managed by SCH: Bright Vision Hospital, Sengkang Community Hospital and Outram Community Hospital.

Mr Leong said his passion for healthcare started when he was a combat medic while serving his national service.

“It prompted me to want to pursue a degree in nursing in Sydney, but unfortunately my parents were against it because of the stigma associated with nursing. In the 1990s, it was seen as a lowly job,” he said.

“My father asked me why should he invest so much money for me to study in Sydney to ‘clean people’s backside’,” he added with a chuckle.

Not wanting to go against his parent’s wishes, he took up a degree in food science and was in the industry for 23 years until he made the career switch.

Ms Stephanie Yeap, director of nursing at SCH, said the working experience of mid-career individuals like Mr Leong provides them with a “different outlook and perspective in their care delivery”, with skill sets that may complement their clinical skills.

She added that mid-career nurses also tend to have a stronger passion and drive for nursing.

“These mid-career nurses are at the stage of life where they understand themselves better and know what sort of career would suit them best,” said Ms Yeap.

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