Carmen Kan graduated with a bachelor's degree in linguistics in 2004. After that, she worked as a research assistant at a university. She was so touched by the earthquake that devastated Sichuan in 2008 that she made up her mind to switch careers. 'I decided that I should do something related to health in my future career,' the third-year student says. After evaluating her options, she applied for admission to the preregistration master of nursing programme at the Polytechnic University (PolyU). It is targeted at graduates who have majored in disciplines other than nursing. 'As soon as I graduate, I will look for a job in acute care,' Kan says. 'In the long-run, I am interested in pursuing a job as a worldwide volunteer. If there is a tragedy or a disaster, I would like to go and help.' Before she can realise that dream, she will have to work full-time for several years, living as frugally as she can. 'I would like to save enough money to do volunteer work full-time,' she says. If Kan was motivated to become a nurse by the compassion she felt for the victims of a tragedy in a distant province, Ida Chan, who had studied marketing at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, had wanted to be a nurse since she was a little girl. 'It was my childhood dream to become a nurse, but I knew that if I got a qualification in Vancouver, I wouldn't be able to practise nursing in Hong Kong, so I studied marketing instead,' she says. After graduating from university, Chan returned to Hong Kong, where she had spent her childhood. Her grandparents became seriously ill in 2009 and, as a result, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, and got hands-on experience taking care of them. 'When I saw the nurses at work, it rekindled my interest in nursing,' she says. Learning of the programme at PolyU, she decided to apply. 'Since I have a background in marketing and nursing, I would like to pursue a career in health care promotion and disease prevention,' the first-year student says. 'I plan on getting some hands-on experience in the wards for a couple of years to understand the patients better.' PolyU's master of nursing programme was launched in 2008. It has three groups of students. The normal study period is three years. 'The programme is for people with a bachelor's degree in any field other than nursing,' says Dr Susan Chow, assistant professor at the school of nursing. 'The objective is to prepare students to become registered nurses. We provide them with basic professional knowledge and the skills they need to become competent registered nurses.' Some of the students in the programme are graduates fresh out of university. Others have had as much as 11 years of work experience. They have worked in such disparate fields as international relations, business and management, modern languages, teaching and science. What they have in common is a desire to help people. 'The programme is essentially for students wanting to change careers,' Chow says. 'Owing to the recent economic downturn and the nursing shortage, and because nursing is a respectable career and the salary is attractive, the programme is attracting applicants from many different disciplines.' Eric Fung also spent several years in Vancouver, studying at the same university as Chan. He has a bachelor's degree in kinetics, which focuses on active lifestyles and sports rehabilitation. Returning to Hong Kong in 2009, he realised that there wasn't much of a future for him in his field. As he was interested in health care, he decided to apply to PolyU's master's programme in nursing. 'With this degree, I can get registration with the Nursing Council of Hong Kong and become a nurse,' the second-year student says. 'Nursing is related to health care and there is a shortage of nurses. At the same time, I can help people.' In terms of his long-term goals, Fung hopes to eventually relocate to the other side of the Pacific. 'I would like to work for several years in Hong Kong as a nurse and then return to Canada to pursue a second master's in a specialised field and then eventually open my own clinic,' he says.