The history of nursing in Malaysia began from about the year 1800 with the formation of the East India Company when hospital for the sick were established in Penang and Singapore. Nursing was carried out by Catholic nuns and later on replaced by English nurses from England.
Nursing practice in the pre-war period in Malaya then was carried out by nurses who received “on the job training” with lectures given by expatriates i.e. by European sisters, matrons and Doctors at the hospital level.
After Independence, health services became mainly a central government responsibility with delegation of service delivery through state and district health administrations.
Prior to the war, each straits/settlement organized and ran their own nursing services. All states were responsible to the director of medical services. The nurses receives lectures in practice and theory of nursing from the matron or assistant matron of the hospital. The doctors gave lectures to both nurses and hospital assistant. They sat for their own state examination and the standards varies from one state to another. On completion from training, nurses were promoted to staff nurse and later in considered suitable they become senior staff nurse.
The expansion of medical and nursing services were greatly hindered during the emergency situations. But in 1959, most of the states in Malaya become free from communism and it marks the beginning of the development of health services throughout the country.
By 1978, the element of Primary Health Care (PHC) strategies enunciated at Alma-Ata were already evident in the Malaysia Health Care System. Concern for reduction in equity in access to health care for increasing coverage formalized in 1971 with the government 20 years perspective plan – NEP. In addition to rural communities, the urban poor had become the focus of attention.