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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Healthcare industry fuels surge in demand for nursing colleges

Healthcare industry fuels surge in demand for nursing colleges

Malaysian Masterskill College revolutionises healthcare training and practice in the region

Most nursing graduates choose to work in private hospitals because of better pay and work conditions.

Contact details
Masterskill University College of Health Sciences, Main Campus: Jalan Kemacahaya 11, Batu 9, 43200 Cheras, Selangor DE, Malaysia. Phone: 603-9080-5888.

The healthcare industry is booming across Southeast Asia. Private hospitals in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and even Ho Chi Minh City are flooded with patients from around the region and increasingly from the Middle East, Europe and North America.

They come for annual checkups, heart bypasses, hip replacements, kidney transplants, laser eye surgery and every other kind of medical treatment conceivable, including sex change operations.

And they do it because the quality of treatment is as good, if not better, than they can get in their own countries, and because it costs much less than at home.

The thriving ‘medical tourism’ industry is expected to continue to boom for the foreseeable future because of a heightened awareness of the benefits of quality healthcare and because the world’s ageing populations will require more frequent medical checkups and treatments.

Ten years ago, consumer expenditure on healthcare services and goods by Asians stood at US$90 billion. Today, it is estimated that it will more than double to $188 billion by 2013.

Malaysia, which has focused on markets in the Middle East and China, expects medical tourism to generate revenues of $650 million next year.

Thailand, another thriving healthcare centre, already treats more than 1 million foreign patients every year – and even tiny Singapore hopes to hit that target by 2012 and generate $3 billion in revenue in the process.

But there is one potential hiccup to this wonderfully rosy picture: Where will all the trained nurses and ancillary staff to look after this massive influx of patients come from?

Step forward Malaysia’s Masterskill University College of Health Sciences.

This organisation, which has several nursing college campuses, astutely spotted the boom in medical tourism and robustly stepped forward to provide training courses for medical staff and thus fill a seemingly ever expanding and lucrative market.

In a few short years Masterskill has become Malaysia’s biggest and most successful training organisation for nurses and other medical assistants like physiotherapists, paramedics, radiologists and so on.

Indeed, there is currently such a demand for nurses that the government of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has set a quota of 1,800 new nurses that it will need to recruit every year – and that is just for the state hospitals in Malaysia.

On top of that, there are also the region’s burgeoning private hospitals where most of Masterskill’s nursing graduates choose to work because the pay and conditions are better.

Right now, the demand for new nurses is relentless, and that is borne out by the fact that Masterskill’s four campuses always get a full enrollment every year – and the enrollment is increased every year.

Said Nasri Nordin, Masterskill’s vice president for corporate affairs, “In 2001, when the first Masterskill nursing school started, it had only 70 students. That rose slowly at first to 200 in 2004, but then it exploded and it has now jumped to 11,000 at our main campus.”

That campus is located at Cheras, just outside Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur; but there are also branch campuses in Kota Kinabalu, Ipoh and Kota Baru, which together take about 4,500 students. And new campuses are planned for Kuching and Johor Baru.

That means Masterskill currently has a total of more than 16,000 students and plans to continue growing that number to meet the ever increasing demand for nursing staff.

To gain admittance to a nursing course at Masterskill, applicants need to have a high school certificate and reasonable knowledge of English.

All tuition is in English by lecturers who must have a university degree. If promising applicants need extra coaching, Masterskill will give them English-language training for several months.

The fees at Masterskill are quite reasonable at around $16,000 for a 3-year course, and so they are affordable even for the children of poor rural families – in fact, most of the students are given a government loan to cover their fees, which they must pay back over the next 15 to 20 years.

As well, the costs for the students are kept down because Masterskill provides accommodation at their campuses, where the students reside freely in condominium units.

The pass rate over recent years has been extremely good at around 90 percent, and the resulting graduates mostly go into general nursing, while others choose other more specific disciplines like physiotherapy, pharmacy, dentistry and so on.

Said Marini Senin, a Masterskill graduate who is now a staff nurse at the private Sunway Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur: “I’m certainly glad I choose Masterskill because it’s provided me with excellent job opportunities. In fact, I even secured employment before I graduated.”

The whole setup is expertly geared to enable aspiring young folks to get a professional qualification in an industry that is booming like few others – and an industry that has tremendous social and humanitarian value.

Masterskill ensures that not only is there no local shortage of nurses, but it enables many young women and men to have the opportunity of a professional career in hospitals and clinics in the region and far afield in Australia, Europe and the Middle East.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib himself has said several times that the education and healthcare industries are critical, and he openly supports companies like Masterskill.

Noted academic Ishak Tambi Kechik, who recently became the vice chancellor of Masterskill University College of Health Sciences, said, “I was attracted to Masterskill because it has a vision that is positive and ambitious, and while it remains a business designed to make money, it trains up quality people and its reputation is excellent.”

The nursing profession has certainly become increasingly popular, especially among young women, and many of Masterskill’s graduates go overseas to work where they can make five or six times as much money as they could in Malaysia and other countries in the region.

Indeed, it is a profession in which people are unlikely, if ever, to get laid off. More often than not, employers plead with them to stay on.



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