Shanisse volunteering at the annual Neighbourhood Health Service.

Shanisse Seah knew she wanted to be a nurse when she was 16. Then a Secondary 4 student at Dunman High School, she and her classmates were asked to research their options for University education during a careers fair.


She narrowed her choices to Nursing and Social Work, as she wanted a career that allowed her to use her skills to help the vulnerable in society.


It was a tough choice, but she picked Nursing over Social Work. “I read the curriculum for Nursing and found that the course equips me with a wider repertoire of skills to help others. Nurses look after patients’ physical and mental health, so I’ll get to do what social workers do as well,” she said.


Shanisse is one of the 2,200 school-leavers who applied to study Nursing at the NUS Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies (NUS Nursing) in the latest academic year, an increase from 1,730 applications two years ago. She is also one of the 630 applicants who listed nursing as their first choice, compared to about 375 two years ago.


In August, she joined a cohort of 235 freshmen who started their Bachelor of Science (Nursing) studies at NUS. This is the largest intake of nursing students in the history of the programme, the intake having been increased from 155 students last year to cater to the higher demand for nursing places.


Professor Emily Ang, Head of NUS Nursing, said she is happy to see more school-leavers like Shanisse pursuing an NUS Nursing degree. “The programme provides evidence-based education, inter-professional training, and various aspects of the course that will equip graduates to be competent, confident healthcare professionals,” she added.


Thinking Nurses

The NUS Nursing pedagogy also aims to groom "thinking" nurses and develop future nursing leaders who can take on key roles in hospitals and clinics, said Prof Ang. Student nurses said these expanding roles and the promise of the profession’s wide career horizons are among nursing’s biggest draws.


But not all members of the public see nursing as a challenging and fulfilling career. Many students said they had to surmount parental objection and doubts from their peers when they chose to study Nursing, which is still perceived by some as a low-skill, menial job.


Shanisse recounted that when she informed her parents of her intention to take up Nursing studies, she faced resistance as they preferred her to take Social Work instead. “They saw nursing as a tough job and did not want my health to suffer from shift work and exposure to germs and viruses. My father was also afraid that witnessing death would affect me emotionally,” she explained.


But her conviction remained strong, and she spent the next two years chipping away at her parents’ mindset that nursing was a thankless job without due reward. “I would frequently express my excitement at being able to work in the hospitals, and when I read an article in the newspapers on how the profession has advanced, I would cut it out and read it to them. I told them that nursing is now different from what they know in their time – we have both autonomy and vertical career progression in our job."


Stronger Prospect

She also brought her parents to the NUS Nursing booth at the NUS Open House earlier this year, so that they could speak to the lecturers and staff about the profession’s career progression and salary prospects.


Last year's graduate employment survey saw nursing graduates start off with median monthly salaries of $3,500 for those with honours, and $3,400 for those without honours – higher than the $3,360 median salary for graduates across all degree programmes. Nursing students also have one of the highest employment rates in the market – currently at 95 per cent for students with Honours degrees.


That sweetened the deal and her parents finally gave Shanisse their blessings. Today, she is enjoying her degree studies at NUS Nursing. “I hope to be a competent nurse who is genuine in listening to my patients’ stories and who is able to form lasting relationships with them,” she said.