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Dr Della Lee, Chairperson of D.S. Lee Foundation

Ms Chew Gek Kim, Deputy Chairman of Tan Chin Tuan Foundation

Ms Samantha Ong, President of Singapore Nurses Association

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

1.    It gives me great pleasure to be part of this award ceremony, and to join you to show our appreciation to all our nurses. Congratulations to all the awardees of this year’s Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award for Enrolled Nurses.

2.    Enrolled Nurses play a very significant role in the nursing workforce. They are an integral part of the medical team that delivers safe, effective and patient-centred care. 

3.   Amongst their many roles, they assess and monitor the condition and health needs of patients, assist in biopsychosocial assessments, help patients transit from one care setting to another, and participate in community engagement. They therefore play a pivotal role in our healthcare system. And in healthcare delivery, there are so many settings. Enrolled Nurses, in summary, are the glue that integrates all these settings together. 

4.    This year, we are recognising 10 outstanding awardees, selected from the public and private institutions, including the community care sector. Let me share with you some of their stories. 

5.    One of the recipients of the Merit Award tonight is Ms Thanageswari D/O Nagarasan. She is a Principal Enrolled Nurse at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. After about six years on the job, she can independently apply upper and lower limb casts, and perform complex wound dressings – roles in the past that were undertaken by staff nurses.  Beyond that, she educates patients on wound care, and how to look out for any signs of early infection. 

6.    Another Merit Award recipient, Ms Nor Hidayu Binte Rahim, is a Principal Enrolled Nurse at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She provides day surgery counselling for patients, assists doctors in biopsy and fine needle aspiration, and performs venepuncture, which are roles typically done by Registered Nurses.

7.    Both of them have acquired new skills and upgraded themselves through a lot of experience and practice. 

8.   Then we have Principal Enrolled Nurse, Ms Poh Jee Khim, from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). She is one of our top three winners tonight.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jee Khim provided exemplary care to COVID-19 suspect patients undergoing endoscopy procedure. This is a high-risk procedure as some of these patients may have been infected with COVID-19, and the invasive procedure may increase transmission risk. But with her experience, skills and most importantly, commitment and dedication, Jee Khim continued to support the endoscopy procedures, potentially putting herself in harm’s way.

9.    These are just three of today’s stories, and there are many others. But all of them have something in common, which is that all our recipients continuously learn on their jobs, hone their skills, enhance their knowledge, and then apply them to make a real difference to their patients.  Their skills are not just clinical in nature, but also include critical soft skills, like resilience and courage, which were demonstrated by Ms Poh Jee Khim. 

10.    In all our jobs and occupations, we may be hired for our knowledge acquired through formal education, but once in a job, it is skills that make us competent and valuable.

11.    It is therefore extremely important that Enrolled Nurses must be able to learn and grow throughout their jobs.  When we say learning really starts after you leave school and enter the workforce, it is even more true for professions with exact demands for skills, including those in healthcare. 

12.    Supporting the upgrading of Enrolled Nurses is therefore an imperative for the Ministry of Health (MOH). We need to support your learning, which can be formal or informal, on the job, or in classrooms.  

13.     Let’s start with formal learning. Today, Enrolled Nurses can also look forward to three Certificate of Competency courses conducted by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), so that you can expand your nursing roles. There are three courses: “Administration of Medication with Tech-Enablement for Enrolled Nurses”, “Dementia Care in the Technological Era” and “Dementia Care & Smart Solutions”. MOH will continue to work with our partners to create new courses and opportunities for you upgrade your skills.

14.     Another opportunity is to take a big step, to upgrade to a Registered Nurse. Over the years, this pathway has been made possible, enhanced and expanded.  It is now quite common to see adult learners undergoing the Diploma in Nursing programme in Nanyang Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.  

15.    The challenge to enrol adult learners in formal education is their varying levels of academic foundation.  For those who are better prepared in this aspect, they can be exempted from certain academic modules.  They can then complete the Diploma in Nursing programme in a shorter time, two years, two and a half years instead of the three years. 

16.    Others who need to strengthen their academic foundation can attend the “Certificate in Bridging Studies for Enrolled Nurses” before they apply to the programme. Since 2005, there are more than 1,800 Enrolled Nurses who have upgraded to become Registered Nurses.

17.    Equally and perhaps more important, is in-career knowledge and skills upgrading. That is why we are also strengthening training for Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs). 

18.    APNs are nurses who have taken on larger responsibilities and some have prescribing rights. They would have met advanced clinical requirements and gained clinical acumen through a combination of formal training, supervision from clinical supervisors and hands-on experience.  APNs go through the Master of Nursing (MN) programme and APN Internship Programme, where they work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide complex nursing care to patients. 

19.    To date, there are a total of 294 APNs of whom 13 started off as Enrolled Nurses. By 2030, I hope we will have more than double the number to 700 APNs in various healthcare settings, and I hope even more Enrolled Nurses can in time become APNs. 

20.   These upgrading opportunities will expand over time, for two reasons. First, as our healthcare system increasingly move towards preventive and primary care, the roles of nurses will expand, especially in the community.  In that aspect, Enrolled Nurses can play an invaluable role in supporting people to improve and maintain their mental, physical, and behavioural health. 

21.    Second, part of MOH’s core objectives is to upgrade our people, so that you find greater meaning and fulfilment in your careers and can be the best you can be.  This imperative goes beyond healthcare, but is what Singapore stands for. We must always be a meritocratic society, where it is a person’s talent and ability that determine their roles and stations in life.  

22.    And we must broaden the definition of merit – beyond academic knowledge to skills; beyond past educational achievements to continual demonstration of abilities; beyond traditional sought-after occupations to a broad range of pathways.   

23.    I therefore thank D.S. Lee Foundation and Tan Chin Tuan Foundation for supporting this Award all these years. This is the 15th year of the Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award for Enrolled Nurses – the pinnacle recognition for Enrolled Nurses who exhibit excellence and dedication in patient care and contribution advancing the nursing profession. The Award, to me, is not just a recognition for the excellent work of our Enrolled Nurses, but also a statement of the values we uphold as a society. 

24.   To all 10 outstanding awardees, I extend my heartiest congratulations to you all for your commitment, compassion and versatility. May your compassionate heart and resilient spirit continue to guide you in your pursuits. 

25.    Thank you.

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