Visiting Chinese Nurses Strive to Move the Profession Forward

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By Kelly Brooks-Staub
Photo by Christopher Myers

“Studying by itself doesn’t provide solutions,” says He Zhong, MSN. “But you can use theory in your practice to find a solution. This, I think, is the aim of education.”

Seated are Chinese doctoral students (l-r) Gao Fend Li, He Zhong, and Liang Tao. Pictured standing are Liang Xiaokun and Li Yang.

He Zhong is one of five Chinese doctoral nursing students taking courses at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing this fall. They are the first group of students to pursue their PhDs through a joint program with the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) School of Nursing, designed to bring China an internationally recognized, doctoral-level model for nursing education. The effort is funded by the China Medical Board of New York, Inc.

The five students, all either faculty members or senior hospital nurses at PUMC, took courses in China during the first year of the program. Some were taught by Hopkins faculty members who traveled to Beijing. This year, the students have traveled halfway around the world to study at Hopkins during the fall 2006 semester. Although the separation from their families has been difficult—each has a husband and children in China—the students are driven by a strong desire to further the nursing profession in their country.

“Nursing is a baby compared to other disciplines,” explains Liang Tao, MSN, a PUMC nursing faculty member. “Research can help move the profession forward. I did not receive enough research training in my MSN program, and I am happy in the PhD program being able to find solutions to nursing problems.”

He Zhong agrees, “PUMC is similar to Hopkins in that it has a reputation for being the best in China. For faculty to be promoted, they must excel in teaching, practice, and research. There is always the pressure to learn more.”

Gao Feng Li, MSN, a senior nurse at PUMC hospital with 20 years of experience, has seen firsthand “the gaps” between nursing standards in China and other countries. She says, “I want our nurses to be the best, but we need knowledge and capacity to take better care of our patients.” She is pursuing a doctorate for the purpose of helping her patients and improving quality of care.

During their semester at Hopkins, the students are expected to finalize their dissertation proposals. Consulting with both Hopkins faculty (in English) and PUMC faculty (in Chinese) has proven to be a difficult but rewarding experience.

Learning to build good cooperative relationships has been a challenge for Liang Xiaokun, MSN. “I have an advisor in China, an advisor at Hopkins, Chinese and American classmates, and a research team that I need to communicate with,” she says.

Classmate Li Yang, MS, notes that after overcoming nervousness, the students have found that “the Hopkins professors have been kind, nice, and patient when we ask questions.” She says, “I can see why Hopkins and PUMC have a strong history and a good relationship.”

While the first Chinese doctoral students are in Baltimore, a second group of students is beginning their first semester of studies in Beijing. After three cohorts—a total of 15 students—graduate from the joint program, PUMC hopes to have the resources and faculty to implement a PhD program on its own.

“When nurses no longer have to leave China for doctoral training, they are more likely to remain in the country to establish their career,” says Victoria Mock, DNSc, AOCN, FAAN, director of the JHU/PUMC program. “The entire country benefits from the research, teaching, and practice of doctorally-prepared nurses.”

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