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 Chien Earn and K. Satku, eds., Singapore's Health Care System: What 50 Years Have Achieved (Singapore: World Scientific, 2016), 169. (Call no. RSING 362.1095957 SIN)
2. “One day to Nurses’ Day,” Today, 31 July 2009.
3. “Three Days to Nurses’ Day,” Today, 29 July 2009, 40. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Singapore. Ministry of Health, More Than a Calling: Nursing in Singapore since 1885 (Singapore: Ministry of Health, 1997). (Call no. RSING 610.73069 MOR)
5. “The President's Award for Nurses,” Straits Times, 1 August 2000, 7. (From NewspaperSG); “Singapore Nurses Day 2016 Message from SNA President & BOD,” Singapore Nurses Association, accessed on 21 May 2017.
6. Tan Sue-Ann, “President’s Award Winner has Nursed the Living and Dying,” Straits Times, 28 July 2017, 6/7. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Tong Yoke Toh and Sheela Narayanan, Caring for our People: 50 Years of Healthcare in Singapore (Singapore: MOH Holdings Pte Ltd for the Ministry of Health, 2015), 199. (Call no. RSING 362.1095957 TON)
8. “Ren Ci Hospital Celebrates SG50 and Nurses’ Day 2015 with Entry to Singapore Book of Records,” Ren Ci Hospital, 31 July 2015.
9. “SingHealth nurses celebrate Nurses’ Day,” SingHealth, 1 August 2007.
10. Rachel Tan, “App Helps Nurses in Caring for Patients.” Straits Times, 31 July 2013, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Linette Lai, “‘Navigators’ Steer Patients Through Health-Care System,” Straits Times, 2 August 2014, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “SingHealth Launches Inaugural Target Zero Harm Awards at Nurses’ Day Celebrations,” SingHealth, 1 August 2016.
13. “The Oscars – Nurses’ Day 2014,” ITE College East, 22 August 2014; Tan K. T., “,” ITE College East, 23 July 2011.
14. “Nanyang Polytechnic, last updated 2 August 2021.
15. Tan, “President’s Award Winner .”
Allison Lim, “Nurses: New Pay Scales by Year's End,” Straits Times, 2 August 1997, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
Cheong Suk-wai, “Nursing That Ambition,” Straits Times, 5 August 2000, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
“Singapore Nurses Association,” (2015). Singapore Nurses Association, last accessed on 2015.
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.