Malaysia now has some 80,000 registered nurses working in public and private hospitals nationwide.
The local demand for nurses has increased tremendously in the past few years because of rapid development in the nation's healthcare sector.
Activists in the country's nursing sector have called for the government to set up an international nursing university to boost professionalism in the field.
This international nursing university, which will specialise in nursing sciences, professionalism in this sector can be further boosted, they say.
A Malaysian Nursing Board official (who declined to be named) said the presence of such a university would augur well for the development of academic excellence and professional skills in the nursing profession in Malaysia.
"If established, a nursing sciences university would be able to offer a comprehensive education in nursing on a centralised basis. Naturally, the university would have to be associated with a teaching hospital for its clinical courses," she said.
She said the university would have academic staff made up of trained nurses.
"All of the courses offered would be on nursing sciences, including specialised programmes. The professors, associate professors, lecturers and tutors would be professionally trained nurses," she said.
A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL
A senior nurse, Zuraida Samad, said: "Before, people thought nurses were only supposed to feed and wash patients in hospitals.
"Today, the public have come to realise nurses also provide nursing diagnosis. This is distinct from medical diagnosis, which is the sole responsibility of doctors," she told this writer at a public hospital here.
Zuraida said a nurse is a trained professional who instinctively knows what to do when a patient experiences difficulties at a time when a doctor is unavailable.
She said nursing focuses on the caring, educating and research aspects of the healthcare system. Caring will always remain fundamental to nursing.
"Those who choose nursing as a career are young people who are caring, dedicated and feel that they are called to serve the sick and improve their health.
DEVELOPING UNIQUE QUALITY
Nursing tutor Beatrice Wong said nursing is different today.
"Nursing training focuses on developing the unique quality of nurses who are caring, well-disciplined, motivated and equipped with critical-thinking skills.
"Nursing teaches how to use minds, hands and hearts in caring for those in need," she said, adding that there is a large demand for qualified nurses.
She said at least 130,000 nurses need to be trained by the year 2020 in order to meet the nurse-to-population ratio of 1:200 as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Malaysia's current ratio is 1:645. Singapore's ratio is 1:203, and Japan's is at 1:134.
In order for a nurse to be registered with the Malaysian Nursing Board, a trainee nurse must have the minimum of three credits in SPM, with credits in Bahasa Malaysia, Science and one other subject, preferably Mathematic or English.
The person must pass a board examination administered in the final year of a three-year Diploma in Nursing programme, and complete at least 48 weeks of practical training at a hospital.
The Tun Tan Cheng Lock College of Nursing, established in 1961 at the Assunta Hospital, is the first private nursing school in Malaysia.
In 1991 Puteri Nursing College became the first nursing school to implement the diploma nursing programme of the Health Ministry. The following year, all other Malaysian nursing colleges followed suit.
The largest nursing college in Malaysia is MasterSkill College of Nursing, which admits 1,000 students each year.