Degree programme is best professional preparation for registered nurses
I am glad to hear that, according to a recent statement by the Hospital Authority, the turnover rate of nurses in Hong Kong has stabilised. The authority's decision to offer an integrated educational pathway and more career advancement opportunities has attracted many nurses in the private sector to rejoin public hospitals.
Still, we have to ask a basic question: can Hongkongers receive the quality health care that they deserve?
Many countries have long educated their registered nurses at the university-degree level. In Hong Kong, we have had university nursing education for about 20 years. But the reopening of hospital-based nursing schools and the emergence of subdegree nursing programmes in recent years are retrograde developments.
Education and medical services are two of the six economic areas where Hong Kong enjoys clear advantages. The government is even planning to expand university education to allow 30 per cent of the tertiary-age population to enter university. Why, then, in a knowledge-based society, should we substitute low-cost, quick-fix programmes for university nursing education?
Just like other professional services, our health care system needs not only a group of skilled workers but also a pool of devoted professionals with integrity and excellent critical thinking and communication abilities.
Experience overseas reveals that preparation for registered nurses at the degree level contributes to higher patient satisfaction and lower medical costs.
University nursing programmes have a strong theoretical and practical grounding, comprising also general education components from the arts, human sciences and natural sciences to achieve holistic student development. Students are educated in a resource-rich and stimulating environment to develop as professional nurses with independent, critical, creative and logical thinking abilities.
Therefore, secondary school leavers intending to pursue nursing as a career must carefully select high-quality nursing programmes for study. They should pay special attention to whether the educational institutions have adequate staff and equipment, whether they can provide students with an environment conducive to learning and whether they have enough experience offering such programmes.
Professor Carmen W.H. Chan, the Nethersole School of Nursing, Chinese University of Hong Kong