This article is originally published on 10 November 2020 and updated to reflect new information.
A profession under much attention in this pandemic, nursing has garnered an unfortunate reputation of a job that is demanding, high risk (especially in a pandemic) and low paying. While hardly the glamourous job of an air stewardess, as many air stewardesses found out in this current recession, healthcare workers are always in demand and nurses are even more needed than ever.
If you are thinking of switching to nursing or ever wondered about how much nurses earn, here is the salary guide to nurses in public healthcare.
Nursing Salary Differs Depending On Your Entry Qualifications
One common mistake people make is to assume every uniformed staff in the hospital ward is a “missy” or nurse. The truth is that the uniformed staff in a hospital ward can range from a healthcare assistant or attendant, patient care assistant to a registered nurse. Sometimes, you do not receive the assistance you need because the person you are asking from help from is not qualified as a nurse.
To be a nurse, one must be registered with the Singapore Nursing Board (SNB). There are two types of nurses registered under the SNB: Enrolled Nurse and Registered Nurse. The entry qualifications are different and according to SNB, Enrolled Nurses should work under the professional supervision of Registered Nurses.
To be an Enrolled Nurse, you need to have a NITEC in Nursing (issued by Institute of Technical Education) while to be a Registered Nurse, you need to have at least a Diploma in Diploma in Nursing/Diploma in Health Sciences (Nursing). Accordingly, the starting salaries for Enrolled Nurses and Registered Nurses are commensurately different.
|Entry Qualifications||NITEC in Nursing||Diploma in Nursing/ Health Sciences (Nursing)||Degree in Nursing|
|Nursing Registration||Enrolled Nurse||Registered Nurse||Registered Nurse|
|Nursing Starting Salary||$1,800||$2,500||$3,500|
|Median 2019 Starting Salary||$1,700||$2,300||$3,600|
Compared to the 2019 median starting salaries of graduates, the nursing starting salaries actually pay better for the ITE and polytechnic graduates.
According to MOM’s Job Situation Report (15th Edition), Enrolled and Staff Nurses will expect to earn $3,300 to $5,900 with most earning around $3,900 in their first year of work as local staff. This is much higher than the above-mentioned starting salary due to the inclusion of allowances and bonuses into MOM’s computation. This would include the Nurse Special Payment of 0.5 month every December to recognise nurses for staying in the profession.
Nursing Salary Is Variable Due To Various Allowances
Depending on where they are deployed, nurses may need to work rotating shifts and night shifts, especially in a hospital setting. This would affect their eventual salary as allowances such as night shift allowance and ward allowance can add up significantly.
For example, a Staff Nurse who works in a hospital ward and works 6 night shifts in a month (2 of which are on the weekend) would receive a $200 ward allowance, $120 weekend night shift allowance and $180 weekday night shift allowance. This would increase her/ his base salary by $500.
Additionally, if the Staff Nurse is placed on-call during the off-duty day, she or he will still receive an on-call allowance even if she or he is not activated for duty. If she or he is activated for duty, the Staff Nurse will be given Callback Compensation which is in line with overtime pay.
While the above example is not meant to imply anything about how much work nurses do or how well (or not well) they are paid to do it, it does illustrate nursing salary is not as straightforward as being paid a monthly salary that remains stable of most of the year.
Nursing Salary Is The Same Across Public Healthcare
Nursing is one of the professions that has strong union support and the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU) diligently advocates for nursing salary on behalf of nurses in the form of collective agreements with the 3 public healthcare integrated clusters: Singhealth, NHG and NUHS.
According the 2018 collective agreements, the salary for nurses is the same across all 3 integrated clusters. This makes sense from a public policy perspective. As taxpayers, we would not wish to have spiralling manpower costs be the cause of medical inflation for public healthcare.
Source: HSEU Collective Agreements
Note: the 2018 collective agreements all expired on 31 March 2020. We can presume that a new set of collective agreements is being drafted and the agreements may be taking longer than usual due to the current pandemic.
Enrolled Nurses start at $1,800 and progress up to $4,400 in base salary for Principal Enrolled Nurses. Staff Nurses start at $2,500 for polytechnic graduates and $3,500 for university graduates and progress to $6,300 for Senior Staff Nurse I. Further progression to Assistant Nurse Clinician and above will typically require additional qualifications as nursing is a highly competency-based career.
Additionally, this is the basic salary of nurses, not including allowances. Nurses who work in hospital wards and thus do shift work are likely to earn more due to shift allowances. The allowances and benefits accorded to nurses are also spelt out in the HSEU Collective Agreements.
Nursing Salary Increases With Post-Registration Education
As seen from the collective agreements, nursing career follows a fairly defined progression. Registered Nurses start as Staff Nurses and progress upwards via the Clinician, Educator or Manager track.
Enrolled Nurses can progress to Registered Nurses by taking on diploma qualifications while diploma-qualified Registered Nurses can upgrade themselves with post-registration degree programmes. Staff Nurses also frequently take on Specialist or Advanced diplomas in the various specialities to improve their specialist skills. In turn, this would enable them to progress further in their careers and be commensurately rewarded.
While the Ministry of Health (MOH) does not, by default, fund all nursing studies (unlike the Ministry of Education (MOE) that funds NIE training), all the various hospitals and healthcare institutions do provide scholarship and sponsorship opportunities to aspiring nurses and nurses who wish to upgrade themselves.
Like teachers, nurses are also rewarded to stay in nursing in public healthcare. According to the CARE package from MOH, public healthcare nurses receive a Nurse Special Payment of 0.5 month every December, on top of their annual bonuses and allowances.
How Different Is Nursing Salary In Private Healthcare?
While it is often thought that the salaries of nurses in private healthcare is higher, this may not be true. A quick scan of the job ads on MyCareersFuture.sg show that the salary ranges quoted are comparable to that of public healthcare sector. Of course, the actual salary offered would be different from individual to individual but as a general guide, the salary ranges are quite similar.
|Private Healthcare Sector||Public Healthcare Sector|
|Staff Nurse||$2,600 to $4,500||$2,200 to $4,540|
|Senior Staff Nurse||$3,350 to $6,000||$3,100 to $6,300|
|Nurse Manager||$4,900 to $8,000||$4,560 to $9,230|
Source: Private healthcare sector salaries are extracted from job ads posted on MyCareersFuture.sg, specifically Parkway Shenton Pte Ltd, while public healthcare sector salaries are extracted from HSEU Collective Agreements
Nursing Is More Than The Salary
As we go through this COVID-19 pandemic together as a nation and as a part of the world grappling with the coronavirus, healthcare workers have never been so important and so salient in our daily lives. Nursing is a noble profession and in this time of need, our nurses have stood out bravely and calmly. Our healthcare system remains fully functioning due to these essential workers.
While the salaries of nurses were revised upwards in 2014 and 2015 by 3% to 10%, nursing is still a profession that is mentally, physically and emotionally demanding relative to the salary compensated. Yet, it is also possibly rewarding in its own way as some of the redeployed airline staff have discovered in their stint in public healthcare.
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