Many of us know that nursing is a rewarding career, especially if you have the heart for caring for others, or if you enjoy the detail-oriented and analytical nature of clinical work. After getting the necessary certifications to become a nurse, or after working for some time, you might wonder what are the different settings you can work in for your next career move and what would be best suited for you. In Singapore, there are namely two sectors – public and private. Find out more about the differences between the two below.
What are the differences between public and private healthcare providers in Singapore?
Public healthcare services run under the direction and management of government bodies, while private healthcare services are funded and managed by companies, corporations, and their stakeholders. Approximately 70 to 80% of Singaporeans obtain their medical care within the public health system, while some may seek private healthcare provision instead. Between the public and private healthcare sectors, there are differences in the types of services, patient care, accessibility, waiting time, comfort, and costs for patients.
|Public healthcare provider||Private healthcare provider|
|Types of services||- Polyclinic|
- Public hospitals which consists of acute/general and community hospitals e.g. National University Hospital, Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Community Hospital etc
- Specialty Centres e.g. National Eye Centre, National Dental Centre
|- Private hospitals with general and specialized services |
- Private general practitioners (GP) and clinics
- Private home care services, like Homage
|Patient care in hospitals||- May have to share room with more than one person, depending on the class type chosen (Class A/B1/B2/C) |
- Mostly necessities provided like bed and toilets
- Doctor is assigned to patient
|- Usually single room, no sharing of rooms|
- Greater range of amenities available e.g. Wi-Fi, hairdryer, DVD set
- Patients may request for specific doctor
|Waiting time||- Typically longer waiting time - can range from one to four hours on average for admission||- First come first serve basis, so waiting times can be shorter|
|Costs and Financing||- Subsidized by the government if patient holds a Singaporean citizenship |
- Bed in ward can start from SGD35 onwards, depending on class type (based on Singapore General Hospital numbers)
- Government-legislated funds from Medishield, Medisave, and Medifund can help to offset costs incurred
|- No subsidies |
- Beds can start from SGD722 (based on Gleneagles Hospital numbers)
- Private insurance or Integrated Shield Plans can be used to offset private healthcare costs
|Accessibility||- Various medical institutions around the island - 16 public hospitals and 20 polyclinics at this point of writing||- Less availability in terms of private hospitals - about nine at the point of writing|
- May have more private GPs around the island
What are the career opportunities for nurses in Singapore?
As a nurse, you will be able to apply for opportunities either in the public or private sector to practise as a nursing professional. The career track for nurses, be it in private or public, are similar.
Career track for nurses
After getting the necessary educational qualifications, your career journey as a nurse starts on the ground as a staff nurse. As you progress, you will be able to diversify into different career tracks based on your interest. If you think you want to lead and manage people, you can delve into becoming a Nurse Manager. Fancy being at the top of your game with clinical work? Specialise in a Nurse Clinician role. Otherwise, if you enjoy developing and grooming the next generation of nurses, consider going into a Nurse Educator track.
⏰ Flexible work schedules, better work-life balance
Public sector healthcare institutions
Public hospitals, community hospitals and polyclinics
Public hospitals, community hospitals and polyclinics within the public sector are managed by three integrated clusters in Singapore: National Healthcare Group (NHG), National University Health System (NUHS), and Singapore Health Services (SingHealth). They have various positions available for nursing jobs.
If you are more interested in public health, health policy, regulation and health promotion, there are some interesting opportunities in the public sector with statutory boards like the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board, or Health Sciences Authority. Work there may not just consist of hands-on clinical work, but an advocacy role for certain causes or playing a contributing role to health policies as well.
Private sector healthcare institutions
With nine private hospitals, there are a variety of jobs in the private sector for nurses as well.
- Concord International Hospital
- Farrer Park Hospital
- Gleneagles Hospital
- Mount Alvernia Hospital
- Mount Elizabeth Hospital
- Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
- Parkway East Hospital
- Raffles Hospital
- Thomson Medical Centre
Do check with the private hospitals directly for job opportunities there.
Besides hospitals and specialty clinics, there are nursing homes as well where nurses can practise.
Nursing homes are long-term residential care facilities where elderly who need help with daily life activities like going to the toilet, showering, eating, and walking, can stay for a longer period of time. There are several nursing homes around the island, such as Ren Ci Nursing Home and Orange Valley Nursing Home. Most nursing homes are considered part of the private sector, as they are privately run and not owned by the government.
Private home care
There are also private home care options where nurses can choose to work independently, and not be restricted to a fixed workplace, like a hospital. Usually patients who require private home care are those who have chronic medical conditions, or require special procedures which need the help of a trained nurse to administer, such as tracheostomies or ventilator use. Such cases may enlist the help of private home care nurses.
What are the differences between being a public sector and private nurse?
Needless to say, a change in setting would leave nurses wondering: what’s in it for me? We look at some of the potential factors of consideration in deciding whether the change is right for you as a nurse. Do note that these may be subjective to the setting itself, and may vary between institutions.
The salary you can draw as a nurse in the private setting is generally more negotiable than in public sectors. This is due to the fact that private sector healthcare is run by corporations, so there is more flexibility in adjustments of pay packages.
In the public sector, the public healthcare groups have come together to collectively agree on a range of salaries across public institutions. As a nurse manager in the public sector, you can make between SGD 4,900 to SGD 8,000 per month, while those in the private sector can earn between SGD 4,560 and SGD 9,230 per month.
Salary is subject to other factors like specialisations, seniority, and level of experience as well.
Flexibility of working hours
In the public sector, shift work is to be expected as hospitals are open round the clock, and polyclinics till late. However, public sector nurses can enjoy compensation for their shift hours, and they receive shift allowances – also graded according to their experience and rank.
In private sectors, nurses may be able to have more say in the hours they work. Some private hospitals have the option of working non-shift, which allows for nurses to go home at regular hours. This may be suitable for nurses who have after-work commitments, like caring for their children. Also, in home care, nurses have even more flexibility of their time, being able to choose the hours they work, as their working schedule would depend on the cases they take.
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In the public sector, usually a higher caseload is expected due to the nature of public healthcare – to serve the public for their healthcare needs. This results in a high patient load, with a bustling and busy work environment. Nurses in the public sector are kept on their toes to care for their patients. If you enjoy active workplaces, public healthcare may be the place for you. However, this may not be to the liking of some nurses. As a former public sector nurse shared with Straits Times in an interview, she found her experience in public health too rushed and she ‘did not have the time to think about what she was doing’.
For nurses in the private sector, the working environment is usually less harried, as there is a slower flow of cases coming in. If you enjoy working and being able to spend more time on individual cases, or if you enjoy the service experience and speaking with your patients, perhaps the private setting is more suitable for you.
The public and private sector has different implications for nurses. It depends on the stage of your career too, to decide whether public or private is more suitable. For example, someone who is already an experienced nurse, or semi-retired, may prefer shorter hours in view of having more freedom of time. A newly minted nurse may appreciate the rigour of the public sector, and glean experience from seeing a barrage of cases starting out.
Also, going for interviews at various public and private healthcare places may be the best way to make a better comparison, as learning directly from the source itself would give you the opportunity to ask questions about the organisation, such as the culture, or even more specific things like benefits.
As a former nurse in the public sector who has switched over to a private hospital shares quips, ‘”Here (in the private hospital), you have more time to really talk to your patients and educate them about post-discharge care. But working in a public hospital is good for exposure to different things.” So, consider these words of wisdom before deciding on which setting would be best suited for you.
- (2022, January 21). Public and private hospitals in Singapore: Key differences to know. Pacific Prime Singapore’s Blog. https://www.pacificprime.sg/blog/public-and-private-hospitals-differences/
- (2016, January 19). Some Singapore nurses find work ’too hectic. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/some-singapore-nurses-find-work-too-hectic
- MOH | Career & Practice. (n.d.). Ministry of Health. https://www.moh.gov.sg/hpp/nurses/career-practices/CareerNPracticesDetails/career-opportunities-for-nurse#public_sector
- MOH | Resources & Statistics. (n.d.). Ministry of Health. https://www.moh.gov.sg/resources-statistics
- Moneysense. (2022, March 30). Nursing Homes in Singapore – How Much Does It Cost? Yahoo Finance. https://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/nursing-homes-singapore-much-does-033059156.html
- Nursing Singapore. (2015, September 12). Private Nursing Singapore | Professional Personal Care Nurse. Nicole Consultancy | Private Nursing. https://www.nicoleconsultancy.com/private-nursing-singapore
- (2021, May 29). What is the Monthly Salary of a Nurse in Singapore? Singapore OFW. https://singaporeofw.com/monthly-salary-nurse-singapore/
- Quiz: How many hospitals and polyclinics do we have on this little sunny island? (n.d.). Gov.Sg. https://www.gov.sg/article/quiz-how-many-hospitals-and-polyclinics-do-we-have
- Syamimi, A. (2022, January 3). Public vs. Private Healthcare in Singapore: Which to Choose? [2022 ]. Bestinsingapore. https://www.bestinsingapore.co/public-vs-private-healthcare-singapore/
- Wee, C. (2022, February 2). Public Healthcare Nurse Salary Guide in Singapore (2022). SingSaver Blog – We Compare, You Save. https://www.singsaver.com.sg/blog/nurse-salary-guide-singapore