by Devin Jeyathurai
Nurses’ Day was originally celebrated as Nurses’ Week from 1965 before becoming Nurses’ Day in the 1980s. Nurses’ Day is a day set aside to honour and recognise the contribution of nurses to Singapore. It is usually marked with celebrations for nurses, which include graduation ceremonies, blood donation drives, concerts, exhibitions, funfairs and charity events.1 Since 1990, the president has opened the Istana to nurses on Nurses’ Day, to thank them for their valuable contributions to the health and well-being of the nation.2
Singapore celebrates Nurses’ Day on 1 August, unlike other countries that celebrate it on 12 May, the birthday of Florence Nightingale. 1 August marks the beginning of the development of nursing in Singapore.3
Up until 1885, healthcare in Singapore had been poor. While there were several hospitals available (at Pearl's Hill, the Sepoy Lines and Kandang Kerbau), there was a lack of nurses to support the work of the doctors. A call for nurses was answered by nuns from the local French Convent, who started nursing at the General Hospital at the Sepoy Lines on 1 August 1885.4
On 1 August 2000, then President S R Nathan inaugurated the President's Award for Nurses, which aims to recognise nurses who have demonstrated outstanding performances and have made major contributions to the profession and to society.5 Since 2000, 61 nurses have received the award.6 To change the public perception of nursing, a branding campaign, Care To Go Beyond, was implemented in 2013. At the same time, an effort was made to integrate the prestigious annual President’s Award for Nurses, the national Nurses’ Merit Award and the annual Nurses’ Day celebrations to accentuate the nursing profession.7
Healthcare institutions plan and celebrate Nurses’ Day with special events and initiatives. Ren Ci Hospital organises a theme party each year for nurses to unwind and recharge.8 In conjunction with Nurses’ Day, SingHealth launched a new nursing uniform in 2007,9 introduced a new mobile application, Nurses Pal, in 2013 to improve patient care processes,10 instituted the Patient Navigator Programme in 2014 for nurses to assume the role of patient navigator,11 and launched the inaugural Target Zero Harm award in 2016 to raise patient safety standards.12
Nurses’ Day is also celebrated among education institutions in many different ways. The Institute of Technical Education celebrates Nurses’ Day with nursing staff and students by organising performances and events on campus.13 In 2014, Nanyang Polytechnic chose to “Go Green” by creating fashionable outfits using recycled materials in celebration of Nurses’ Day.14 In 2017, SingHealth announced that in 2018 it would replace current uniforms of different hues to all-white uniforms across its 11 institutions to help patients identify nurses more easily.15
1. Lee, C. E., & Satku, K. (Eds.). (2016). Singapore's health care system: What 50 years have achieved. Singapore: World Scientific, p. 169. (Call no.: RSING 362.1095957 SIN)
2. One day to Nurses’ Day. (2009, July 31). Today. Retrieved from http://www.singhealth.com.sg/DoctorsAndHealthcareProfessionals/Documents/July31FINAL451PM.pdf
3. Three days to Nurses’ Day. (2009, July 29). Today. Retrieved from http://www.singhealth.com.sg/DoctorsAndHealthcareProfessionals/Documents/SingHealthNursesDay_TODAY_29Jul.pdf
4. Singapore. Ministry of Health. (1997). More than a calling: Nursing in Singapore since 1885. Singapore: Ministry of Health. (Call no.: RSING 610.73069 MOR)
5. Nurses Day. (2000, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Nurses Association. (2016). Singapore Nurses Day 2016 Message from SNA President & BOD. Retrieved 2017, May 21 from Singapore Nurses Association website: http://www.sna.org.sg/singapore-nurses-day-2016-message-from-sna-president-bod/
6. Tan S. (2017, July 28). President’s Award winner has nursed the living and dying. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
7. Tong, Y.T., & Narayanan, S. (2015). Caring for our People: 50 years of healthcare in Singapore. Singapore: MOH Holdings Pte Ltd for the Ministry of Health, p. 199. (Call no.: RSING 362.1095957 TON)
8. Ren Ci Hospital. (2015, July 31). Ren Ci Hospital celebrates SG50 and Nurses’ Day 2015 with entry to Singapore Book of Records. Retrieved 2017, May 21 from Ren Ci Hospital website: http://www.renci.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/Media-Release_REN-CI-HOSPITAL-CELEBRATES-SG50_NURSES-DAY-2015.pdf
9. SingHealth. (2007, August 1). SingHealth nurses celebrate Nurses’ Day. Retrieved 2017, May 22 from SingHealth website: https://www.singhealth.com.sg/AboutSingHealth/CorporateOverview/Newsroom/NewsReleases/Year2007/Pages/SingHealthNursesCelebrateNursesDay.aspx
10. Tan, R. (2013, July 31). App helps nurses in caring for patients. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Lai, L. (2014, August 2). ‘Navigators’ steer patients through health-care system. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. SingHealth. (2016, August 1). SingHealth launches inaugural Target Zero Harm Awards at Nurses’ Day celebrations. Retrieved 2017, May 22 from SingHealth website: https://www.singhealth.com.sg/AboutSingHealth/CorporateOverview/Newsroom/NewsReleases/2016/Pages/TZH.aspx
13. ITE College East. (2014, Aug 22). The Oscars – Nurses’ Day 2014. Retrieved 2017, May 23 from ITE College East website: http://ce.ite.edu.sg/ce-happenings/events/events-2014-jul-sep/22-aug-2014-the-oscars-nurses-day-2014/; Tan, K. T. (2011, July 23). Nurses Day celebration at ITE College East. Retrieved 2017, May 23 from ITE College East website: http://ce.ite.edu.sg/ce-happenings/events/events-2011-jul-sep/23-jul-2011-nurses-day-celebration-at-ite-college-east/
14. Nanyang Polytechnic. (2014, December 31). Going green on Nurses Day. Retrieved 2017, May 23 from Nanyang Polytechnic website: http://www.nyp.edu.sg/about-nyp/nyp-overview/media-room/campus-news/greennyp/greennyp2014.html
15. Tan S. (2017, July 28). President’s Award winner has nursed the living and dying. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
Nurses: New pay scales by year's end. (1997, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Nursing that ambition. (2000, August 5). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Singapore Nurses Association. (2015). Singapore Nurses Association. Retrieved from Singapore Nurses Association website: www.sna.org.sg
The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.