The shortage of nurses is being felt all around the world but one hospital group is going to extreme lengths to bring staff back to the profession.
Singapore’s worsening shortage of nurses, has seen one private group offer up to $SG12,000 ($A12,234) as a finder fee or referral bonus to existing staff.
The full amount will be given to people who are able to on-board an experienced nursed, with graduate nurses drawing a slightly lesser but still impressive $SG3600 ($A3671) referral fee.
The island nation has seen thousands of nurses leave the profession, with Singapore’s high percentage of foreign healthcare workers also resigning, despite travel restrictions which may prevent them from returning to their home countries.
In 2020, the profession experienced a net drop of 572 nurses – a first in more than two decades – despite the admission of 2356 new registered nurses and 661 enrolled nurses. Registered nurses are considered to be more senior and help supervise enrolled nurses.
According to Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Janil Puthucheary, numbers have fallen even more considerably in 2021.
Speaking in parliament in November he said 1500 healthcare workers resigned in the first half of 2021 alone – with an average, non-pandemic year normally recording 2000 resignations.
Foreign healthcare workers are also leaving in droves, with the first six months of 2021 recording nearly 500 departures. In comparison, 2020 saw 500 staff resign during the entire year, with 2019 recording 600 resignations.
“It feels like what started as a 2.4km run became a marathon, and just as we are reaching the finishing line, we have to run a second marathon,” he said, quoting a WhatsApp message from a colleague.
“Our people are exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally – whether they will admit it or not.”
He also spoke of the “unimaginable” level of care healthcare workers have had to exert during the pandemic.
“Having to hold a phone for a patient so their family can say their last goodbyes,” said Dr Puthucheary. “Holding their hand, to keep them company, on behalf of the patient’s relatives. They need all the support we can give them.”
Dr Puthucheary said nurses in particular were struggling with increased work hours, with the average nurse working 160 to 175 hours per month in September. Many healthcare workers have been unable to take their leave since 2020, with Dr Puthucheary predicting that 90 per cent of staff will also be unable to clear their leave for 2021.
Global nursing trend
A similar trend of nurses leaving their roles in the midst of unprecedented demand is occurring globally, including in Australia.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian College of Nursing chief executive Kylie Ward said around 20,000 nurses had resigned in 2021 alone, with the biggest deficits felt in mental health, aged care, maternity wards and critical care.
“It spoke to the psyche of where nurses were at in Australia,” Prof Ward said.
According to a 2020 report from the International Council of Nurses, 90 per cent of National Nurses Associations believe that heavy workloads, insufficient resourcing, burnout and stress related to the pandemic response are driving people from the profession.
The effects of such an industry-wide exodus could be felt for years to come too.
“With the ageing of the nursing workforce, 17 per cent of nurses globally are expected to retire within in the next 10 years, and 4.7 million additional nurses will need to be
educated and employed just to maintain current workforce numbers, let alone address the shortages,” the report reads.
“In total, 10.6 million additional nurses will be needed by 2030.”