guide for nursing career

The Ultimate Nursing Career Guide in Singapore

Looking for a meaningful and fulfilling career in nursing? Find out what a nursing career is like in Singapore and the various nursing career paths you can embark on.

by Lorraine Bunag, R.N.

What is a Nurse?

Often, when we think of a nurse, the first thought that comes to mind are individuals in white uniforms whose job is to assist doctors. However, there’s more to the profession than just that. In fact, many nurses would agree that nursing is not just a career or profession, it’s a calling.

Broadly speaking, a nurse is a highly-skilled individual who’s in charge of the patients’ holistic care and wellbeing. Just like doctors, there are different types of nurses. Some nurses are trained to take care of patients in the ward, while others specialise in the emergency room. Furthermore, nurses can also choose their specialisations; for instance, some nurses prefer to focus on haemodialysis, while others spend most of their time with cancer patients.

While doctors only spend a short time with patients, nurses often dedicate their entire shift for them. The diverse responsibilities of a nurse include taking care of the patient and coordinating their needs to the appropriate channels. In hospitals, nurses help to assess the patient’s condition, administer medications, check for side-effects, and refer them to doctors should there be any cause for concern. 

What Do Nurses Do?

The specific responsibilities of a nurse depend on where they work and their field of speciality, but in general, a nursing career in Singapore involves the following:

Physical Assessment

Whether you’re in the clinic or hospital, nurses have to assess the patient’s physical condition. This can be done through health interviews and vital signs taking, which is why nurses-in-training need to learn and master the art and science of taking information and health history from patients. Moreover, they’ll need to be equipped with the necessary skills to operate medical equipment to take temperature, pulse rate, and blood pressure.

Perform Health-Related Procedures

Besides vital signs taking, nurses also need to be skilled when it comes to procedures necessary to ensure patient care. For instance, they need to learn how to effectively insert an intravenous needle, hook oxygen, use a nebulizer, insert a catheter, measure urine output, or clean wounds.

Of course, there are certain nursing procedures that a nurse must learn depending on their specialisation as well. For example, nurses who specialise in haemodialysis need to know how to use the dialysis machine, while a cardiology nurse must be meticulous in using an electrocardiogram machine (ECG). 

Finally, you’ll also need to learn how to properly document the care they provide to the patient as part of your nursing career; but please take note that documentation depends on the institution where you work.

Coordinate with the Healthcare Team

One of the most crucial roles of nurses is to coordinate with the various medical professionals involved in the patient’s care. Simply put, nurses serve as links between various departments.

To give you a clearer picture, here are a couple of examples: when a doctor gives medication orders for the patient, nurses have to coordinate with the pharmacy. Likewise, when the physician recommends laboratory tests, nurses need to call the laboratory department to schedule the test. Any changes in diet must also be coordinated with the Diet and Nutrition Department.

Provide Patient and Family Education

Whether the patient is visiting the clinic, staying in the hospital, or getting discharged, it is often up to nurses to educate them about things that relate to their health.

In a clinic setting, nurses have to relay and reinforce information on medications, dos and don’ts, as well as when the next appointment is going to be.

During the patient’s hospital stay, a nurse must diligently inform patients (and sometimes their families) about the procedures they need to undergo, medications they are taking, and their current health status.

Stay Updated with the Latest Health Trends & Medical Advancements

Finally, with the influx of new studies and technology, nurses must keep themselves updated on the current health trends, especially on the area of their specialty. This is essential to ensure that the patients are receiving the best possible care.

There are many ways to stay updated. Besides reading up on the latest medical news yourself, you can allow your employer to send you to seminars, workshops, or classes to further your knowledge and skills. You may also acquire continuing education with your own effort. 

Types of Nurses in Singapore: Enrolled & Registered Nurses

There are 2 types of nurses in Singapore: a Registered Nurse or Enrolled Nurse.

Enrolled Nurses (EN) and Registered Nurses (RN) undergo different training, and of course, perform different scope of practice. As it is, ENs work directly under the RNs’ supervision. They assist RNs in providing holistic care to the patient. Once you become an Enrolled Nurse, you can become a Senior Enrolled Nurse and take on higher responsibilities. Likewise, you can upgrade yourself by enrolling in Post-NITEC courses.

With additional training and good academic performance, an Enrolled Nurse can become a Registered Nurse. However, take note that you don’t have to be an EN first before becoming an RN. You can choose to study to become a Registered Nurse right away.

A Registered Nurse also has more career options, which we will cover in the next sections.

How Do I Start My Nursing Career in Singapore? 

Do you want to pursue a nursing career in Singapore? If you do, there are two routes you can take: you may choose to be a Registered Nurse right away, or become an Enrolled Nurse first. As these two professions have different job descriptions, you will also undergo different educational tracks for them.

To Become an Enrolled Nurse

To become an Enrolled Nurse, you will have to study for 2 years to obtain the NITEC in Nursing. The full NITEC in Nursing course includes a 15-month-long full-time training at ITE College East in Simei Avenue, and a 9-month-long supervised clinical attachment at healthcare institutions, which includes shifts and weekend duties. By the end of the course, you would have learnt how to assist in medication administration, perform selected nursing procedures and treatment orders, and effective ways to communicate with patients and teach them self-care.

To Become a Registered Nurse

If you want to be a Registered Nurse, you’ll need more than two years of education and training. The good news, however, is that there are more options in terms of certification requirements and educational institutions where you can obtain them from. 

To become a Registered Nurse in Singapore, you will need to have a Diploma in Nursing or Bachelor of Science (Nursing). You can obtain a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) locally from National University of Singapore over a duration of 3 years (or 4 years for a degree with Honours). A Diploma in Nursing can be obtained from Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic or Parkway College of Nursing and Allied Health Pte Ltd over a duration of 3 years. 

Both diploma and degree holders are eligible to become a Registered Nurse. 

You can head over to Health Professionals website if you want a list of certification requirements and the institutions you can get them from.

Singapore Nursing Board (SNB) Licensure Exam

After finishing the educational requirement at the approved institutions, you’ll also need to take the SNB Licensure Exam before you can practise nursing in Singapore. The SNB will send a notification letter to Licensure Exam Candidates regarding their exam schedule and venue. You have to be at the venue 30 minutes before the exam starts; late examinees will not be allowed to take the test.

On the day of your exam, you will need to bring the following items with you:

  • Your NRIC (National Residence Identity Card) or passport and work permit (if applicable)
  • Your nursing registration and current practicing certificate/license
  • Notification Letter of Licensure Examination as well as the payment receipt
  • 4B pencil and eraser
  • Calculator without cover

In contrast, you will not be allowed to bring the following items into the examination venue:

  • Bags
  • References books and other materials
  • Digital devices such as cameras, handphones, etc.

Renewal of SNB Practising Certificate

Taking the Licensure Exam registers you in the Singapore Nursing Board, but you’ll also need to obtain a valid SNB Practicing Certificate to be able to work as an Enrolled Nurse or Registered Nurse in Singapore. Nurses will have to renew their SNB Practicing Certificate every year. As mentioned above, the renewal fee will cost $45 and $30 for a Registered Nurse and an Enrolled Nurse respectively.

Tuition, Examination & Renewal Fees

Now, you must be wondering: how much do I have to spend to become an Enrolled or Registered Nurse? Here’s a rough breakdown:

The NITEC in Nursing (for Enrolled Nurses) in ITE College costs about $5,600 for a Singapore Permanent Resident; for a Singapore Citizen, it’ll be around $440. Both amounts cover one academic year.

If you want to become a Registered Nurse, an academic year in National University in Singapore costs about $8,900 for Singapore Citizens and $12,500 for Singapore Permanent Residents. Please note that both fees are payable by students in receipt of the MOE Tuition Grant.

As for the SNB Licensure Exam Fees, you can refer to the amounts below:

  • Application fee for Registration or Enrolment as a Locally-Trained Registered Nurse or Enrolled Nurse: $30
  • Registration fee for a Locally Trained Registered Nurse: $30
  • Enrolment fee as a Locally Trained Enrolled Nurse: $30
  • Application or Renewal of Practicing Certificate for a Registered Nurse: $45
  • Application or Renewal of Practicing Certificate for an Enrolled Nurse: $30

Singapore Nursing Board (SNB) Re-registration / Re-enrolment

If you are a nurse who has not practised nursing for a continuous period of 5 years and up to 10 years, you will have to attend a 3-month refresher course called the Return-to-Nursing (RTN) programme before you can practise nursing again. This programme is provided at the following two institutions: 

SingHealth Alice Lee Institute of Advanced Nursing (Singapore General Hospital)

  • Address: 168 Jalan Bukit Merah, #18-01, Connection One, Tower 1, Singapore 150168
  • Email: [email protected]

National University Hospital (Nursing Administration Dept). 

  • Address: 1E Kent Ridge Road, NUHS Tower Block Level 13, Singapore 119228
  • Email: [email protected]

You can reach out to the respective institutions to enquire about the RTN programme.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses who are out of practice for more than 5 years but less than 15 years will need to attend the Back to Nursing Practice (BNP) Course instead. This is a one-off emergency response course that aims to equip nurses with the latest skills and knowledge so that they can support the COVID-19 pandemic response. However, instead of a 3-month refresher course, you’ll attend 4 weeks of classes at ITE College East (for ENs) or Nanyang Polytechnic (for RNs), followed by a 6-month competency assessment with your employer. 

After completing the RTN or BNP programme and the full requirements, you may then apply for re-registration or re-enrolment

Types of Nurse Specialisations

Once you’re a Registered Nurse, you can choose to specialise in any one or a combination of the following fields. Take note that this is not an exhaustive list; there are other specialisations as a nurse in Singapore that you may be interested in other than what’s listed here:

  • Community Health
  • Geriatric
  • Critical Care
  • Infection Control
  • Oncology
  • Orthopaedics
  • Renal
  • Diabetes Education
  • Neuroscience
  • Nutrition Support
  • Pain Management
  • Rehabilitation
  • Rheumatology and Immunology
  • Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT)
  • Emergency
  • Medical-Surgical
  • Pediatrics

Nursing Career Tracks

Besides choosing a specialty, a Registered Nurse can also further his or her studies to follow a particular career track. In Singapore, there are basically 4 career tracks to choose from: Management, Education, Clinical, and Research.

Nursing Management

Do you want to lead? If that’s the case, you’ll do well with the Nursing Management Track. In this career path, you’ll manage a team and take care of their professional and personal development. From a Nurse Manager, you can work your way up to become a Director of Nursing.

Some of the things you’ll be in charge of are:

  • Job evaluation
  • Policy review
  • Manpower resourcing

Nursing Education

Are you keen on teaching nurses and helping them become great care providers? If so, you will probably enjoy being a nurse educator.

In the nursing education track, you have two options: work in the healthcare setting or in the academe. If you choose the first, you’ll take charge of the education and training programmes for nurses. On the other hand, if you choose to work in the academe, you’ll serve as a full-time nurse lecturer to nursing students.

In the healthcare setting, you can start as a Nurse Educator and work your way up to become the Director of Nursing. If you’re working in academia, you’ll start as a Nurse Lecturer, and then, if you want to, work your way up to be a Professor.

Clinical Nursing

Another academic track for Registered Nurses is Clinical Nursing. As a Nurse Clinician, you’ll work directly with patients and their family, mainly to:

  • Manage acute or chronic illness
  • Create, implement, and evaluate care plans, and modify them when necessary
  • Help train and educate other nurses

Once you’re up for it, you can even further your studies and skills to get your Master’s Degree and become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN), who can independently run their own clinic, order tests, and manage patients with stable chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and mental health problems.

Nursing Research

Finally, as a Registered Nurse, you can further your knowledge and skills to become a Nurse Researcher to plan, initiate, and facilitate studies focusing on nursing. As with the previous tracks, Nurse Researchers can also advance as Director of Nursing.

How Much Do Nurses Earn in Singapore?

The salary of nurses in Singapore varies depending on various factors. In general, RNs normally receive higher pay grades than ENs, with the former making an average of $2,400 monthly and the latter around $1,750.

You’ll also have to take into consideration your scope of work, field of specialisation, and employing institution. The bottom line is, the further you advance in your knowledge and skills through continuing education and training, the more you’ll earn in your nursing career in Singapore.

Pros and Cons of Working as a Nurse

At this point, you probably already understand that being a nurse means you have numerous channels to explore. But, career-wise, what are the pros and cons of taking up nursing?


Nursing is a Trusted Profession

Given that nurses often have to placate patients and remain gentle with them no matter how tense the situation is, nursing is often viewed as a trusted profession. In fact, one survey even named nursing as “The Most Trusted Profession” for 15 straight years! This means that people view nurses as individuals who are high on honesty and ethics.

There’s a High Demand

Nurses deal with healthcare, something that will always be needed no matter the season or field. For this reason, nurses are always in demand. Day in and day out, people are building hospitals to cater to the needs of people. If not a hospital, they’re building other businesses that still require nurses to look after their employees.

The bottom line is, nurses are always in demand, which means that you’ll have a better chance of getting hired immediately.

Diverse Tracks and Income Opportunities

Just like any profession, nurses often start with an average income, but the earning potential goes up the more you further your studies and hone your skills. In particular, the nursing career paths in Singapore are diverse and opportunities are almost endless, seeing that Registered Nurses can even open their own clinics independently once they become an Advanced Practice Nurse.

No Take-Home Tasks

One of the best things about being a nurse is that, most of the time, you don’t have to complete any pending tasks at home. Nurses in the hospitals work through their shift and can relax the minute they get out of the setting.

Of course, this still depends on the setting where you work. For example, if you work in academia, you may still have additional tasks that you’ll need to bring home to complete. But most of these take-home tasks can still be avoided with good time management.

Opportunity to Help Others

Perhaps, the most rewarding part of being a nurse is the ability and opportunity to help others. One must say that helping others is part of the job description; but truly, nurses often go above and beyond their duty to attend to their patient’s needs.

Helping others requires one to be understanding, patient, and, of course, knowledgeable. Most of the time, you must keep your emotions in check even in stressful situations, so that you can properly take care of your patient’s holistic well-being.


Health Risks

Every profession poses a level of risk, but nurses often face health risks every day. Not only do they have to be in close contact with patients who possibly have communicable diseases, but they also need to handle bodily fluids frequently.

Thankfully, nurses can protect themselves by wearing the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and making sure that they have a strong immune system.

Physical and Mental Stress

There’s no doubt that nursing is a physically demanding career, but more than the physical stress, nurses also have to cope with mental and emotional stress. This is often the case for nurses who manage care for patients with irreversible health conditions.

Of course, there’s also a way to combat physical and mental stress. Taking regular breaks when needed and learning self-care tips can help to avoid burnout and promote mental wellbeing.

Sensitive Responsibilities

Finally, nurses need to have deep knowledge about legalities. As a nurse, you must know your scope of work and stay within that limit. Not doing enough, or doing too much, can pose some legal risks.

In the nursing profession, you need to find the balance between taking care of your patient while still following the laws and policies. For instance, you might be particularly close to a patient or their family and feel that it’s okay for you to give your opinion regarding their health condition, but remember that it’s still important to remain professional and that some things need to remain confidential regardless of your emotional attachment.

Where Do Nurses Work?

We immediately associate nurses with hospitals, but now, we know that they can work in a lot of fields. As it is, nurses can work in communities, clinics, schools (as a school nurse or lecturer), and in various industries where you need to attend to the well-being of the employees.

When looking for a nursing career, there are many factors to consider, including your passion and interest, the pay grade, your colleagues, and how well you can advance in the field.

Some nurses find shift work in the traditional hospital setting challenging as it may affect work-life balance, but freelance nurse roles are actually available!

At Homage, nurses get a wide array of opportunities and advantages. Most notably, you can take charge of your own schedule. As a Homage Nurse, you have the flexibility of deciding if you want to be a freelance, part-time, or full-time nurse. We also offer all our nurses a competitive salary package that corresponds to their knowledge, skillset, and experience. And interestingly, we do not hire in haste: we take into consideration your availability, preferences and specialisations to ensure that you are matched to the most suitable family or organisation.

Learn more about the various nursing job opportunities at Homage and the process of becoming a nurse at Homage here. Alternatively, you can look out for more jobs via this website

Nurses are life-savers. While it’s true that they don’t have the same scope of practice as doctors, they are actually the ones who spend the most time with patients and play a crucial role in making sure that they are receiving the most appropriate care to promote health, prevent diseases, and avoid complications. Indeed, it is one of the most fulfilling careers one can take.

Looking for a fulfilling career with a competitive salary package and a flexible schedule? Join us as a Homage Nurse today.

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About the Writer
Lorraine Bunag, R.N.
Lorraine is a registered nurse who spends most of her time writing informative articles on health and wellness. At the end of the day, she relaxes by reading a book or watching documentaries about unsolved mysteries.
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