According to Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Singapore's Parliamentary Secretary for Health, the attrition rate of nurses increased by 7.4 per cent in 2021 - the highest figure since 2017. Significant variables contributing to attrition included the enormous workload, including non-clinical and administrative duties; and lowered mental well-being in these stressful times- as reflected by high MC rates and many nurses experiencing burnout.

The next question: Where do these nurses transcend?

According to conversations and experiences from the nursing community, these nurses either find new adventures in restructured/private healthcare organisations, take an indefinite hiatus from nursing/healthcare, or turn to ad-hoc nursing assignments, colloquially termed as 'locum nursing.'

Locum nursing is a haven for some nurses and uncharted territory for others. Is locum nursing as lucrative or as risky as many claim? Let us discuss some advantages and disadvantages, and you be the judge.

1. Higher rates, higher earnings.

The good.

The average hourly rate for Registered and Enrolled Nurses in locum nursing is around 30 SGD and 28 SGD respectively (factoring in varying shifts and weekend rates). Nurses committing to a 42-hour work week amounts to 5040 SGD (RN) and 4704 SGD (EN) per month. However, this figure is estimated as locum nurses could choose to work permanent night shifts or longer hours for a greater wage. Typically, many locum nurses work beyond 42 hours a week due to its lucrative rates, which could scale their basic earnings.

These pay rates are attractive, particularly among newer nurses. Seasoned nurses with a relatively higher salary from years of cumulation may find this less enticing because they are likely to earn more than a full-time locum would (assuming working hours for both are equal).

The not so good.

Self-employed Singaporean/PR individuals must make CPF contributions. While most believe that self-employed individuals are exempted from CPF contributions, this is not true. The monthly payment rate for self-employed individuals varies from 6-8% based on their income, according to the CPF board. Bear in mind that this only contributes to the Medisave Account.

Full-time locum nurses must also be mindful that they will not reap the benefits of employer CPF contribution of 17% of their salary, company benefits (medical and flexi), and bonuses. Also, they may have to make additional contributions to their CPF Ordinary Account, which already has accumulated funds from previous working experience to purchase a house(unless the intention is to pay purely by cash).

2. Time is in your hands.

The good.

Being a locum nurse means one will now have the luxury of time. You get to choose your vacation time and make plans weeks, or even months in advance without fretting if your Reporting Officers might reject you. According to a CNBC article, many have reported having improved mental health due to deliberately taking days off to recuperate. In relation to that, many locum nurses have also stated that transitioning to a "full-time locum" significantly improved their mental and physical health.

The not so good.

Since nurses can now choose their working days, their income will be entirely dependent on the number of days and hours worked. This translates to not being compensated for days when they do not work, as opposed to being a full-time employee paid for sick leave and annual/vacation leave.

However, this can be addressed with appropriate planning by designating realistic weekly/monthly target hours. Suppose the objective is to quit the restructured system for one's mental health. In that case, pushing oneself harder may be contradictory and disregarding one's personal well-being.

My thoughts.

These are all pertinent considerations when deciding to transit to locum full-time. It offers a balance of work-life, and one's income will increase in folds. However, it is always wise to factor in the other considerations, such as committing extensive and additional hours which could jeopardise your well-being (again), and potentially missing out on other benefits and remunerations that you get from being a full-time employee.

Nevertheless, I am confident one will make the best decision as nobody knows their priorities better than themselves.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention a platform that connects nurses with flexible, locum shift hours and, of course, at competitive rates. It is known as Worq Health. The essence of this platform is to empower nurses to take control of their schedules and find shifts that fulfil their needs, preferences, and suitability while also contributing to healthcare institutions' staffing challenges.

Signing up is simple because Worq Health is integrated with Singpass; it takes less than a minute to create a profile, and the nurse is ready to start looking for shifts and earning extra kopi money within 72 hours. In terms of work assignments, Worq Health can link nurses to eligible assignments on their platform, with transparent rates and streamlined communication, as opposed to traditional methods in which a nurse may have to communicate with multiple recruiters for different assignments. If you ask me, it sounds relatively simple, and puts the 'ma fan-ness' at bay!

So give Worq Health a try; their application is downloadable on both the app and play store!

Till then, stay safe!