THE polytechnic that has produced more than half the pool of 16,000 registered nurses here is gearing up its students to handle the challenges of a rapidly greying population. Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) has expanded the focus of its nursing diploma programme to cover long-term care for elderly patients. A new module on integrated care was introduced to its final-year nursing students this year. It trains them to make an assessment of a patient’s health, make referrals to nursing homes and other agencies that best meet his needs, and teach his family members and caregivers how to care for him and where they can turn to for information.
Aside from training aspiring nurses, the polytechnic, which has offered the nursing diploma since 1992, also plans to introduce specialised courses on long-term care next year for nurses already in service. One of these courses is in wound management; the other is in integrated care management, which prepares nurses to become “care coordinators” – individuals who can advise patients, their families and their caregivers on the community hospitals and nursing homes that deliver intermediate and long-term care.
Besides NYP, Ngee Ann Polytechnic also runs a nursing diploma programme. Ms Wong Luan Wah, director of NYP’s School of Health Sciences (Nursing), explained that the hospitals will need many more care coordinators in the light of an anticipated explosion in the number of elderly patients. It has been reported that by 2030, one-fifth of all Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above.
She added: “It’ll be good for nurses to be trained to identify the needs of patients quickly upon admission to hospital. Nurses can advise family members on suitable post-hospital care treatment and start the process of referring them to organisations and people who can help them. This will shorten the time patients spend in hospital too.” Besides tweaking its nursing programme, NYP will also send more of its students on attachments to nursing homes. It will also buy two more patient simulation mannequins, which are computer-programmed to respond like real patients, so students can chalk up more realistic hands-on experience. The polytechnic currently has five such mannequins.
NYP, which accepts about 700 nursing diploma students each year, saw its 10,000th nursing diploma student graduate yesterday. Ms Rachel Chua, 20, is that graduate. She said: “Dealing with the elderly can be challenging. You need a lot of patience. I remember working with an elderly patient who didn’t want to walk, but we’d encourage her, coax her every day; after about a week, she finally did so. I feel that the experience was so rewarding.” About 5,600 students from NYP’s other disciplines get their scrolls this week.