The purpose of education is to acquire knowledge and skills, and most importantly, to develop a noble character with intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence, a positive attitude towards life, and a harmonious relationship with the environment. Such a life education is particularly important for nursing.
Recent research shows that the suicide rates of nurses and police officers are the highest among the working population in Hong Kong.
Nurses usually feel exhausted and worn-out due to overwhelming workloads, long and irregular working hours, and the stress of dealing with life-and-death situations.
Overwork and too much stress may weaken their commitment to nursing or even their belief in the value of life. It is therefore essential that nurses learn to love themselves before they can love others, and develop the abilities to cope with anxiety and negative emotions in adversity.
Besides, nursing is a special type of human caring. Apart from caring for the physical and psycho-social health of patients, nurses are also expected to use their life experiences and intelligence to help patients face diseases and attain spiritual growth. Therefore, nurses acquire spiritual care abilities so that they can provide holistic care to patients.
University is the best place for them to learn these abilities. It offers an optimal learning environment for nurses to cultivate the necessary qualities while acquiring professional knowledge and skills. They can greatly benefit from a university education, especially in the area of whole person development.
Life education, using diversified teaching methods, is an integral part of the university nursing curricula, including at subject level. Also, the general education culture of a university encourages students to explore perennial issues of human concern.
Life education continues through extra-curricular activities at a tertiary institution.
In other words, life education is part of all academic and student activities in university. This helps students to build up a positive attitude towards life and facing adversity, to develop their abilities so they can provide spiritual care to patients, and to prepare themselves spiritually and mentally for future challenges.
As an integral part of university nursing curricula, life education helps students become not only compassionate and confident nurses, but also good and responsible citizens.
Diana Lee, chair professor of nursing, director, Nethersole School of Nursing, Chinese University of Hong Kong