CHIU CHI-SING, Lo Wai-chu and Chan Yuk-ling are among the 1,105 registered nurses who have signed up for the first distance learning degree programme in Hong Kong offered by the Open Learning Institute. The institute's Bachelor of Nursing (Honours) degree programme is aimed at helping local in-service nurses improve their qualifications and professional knowledge, as well as promotion prospects. Emphasis is placed on modern nursing techniques. Dr Wong Tat-meng, Dean of the institute's School of Science and Technology, said: 'The introduction of our nursing programme has provided much-needed additional training places for Hong Kong's post-registration nursing staff. It serves to prepare the nursing profession for meeting the challenges of health care towards the next century.' Both courses offered by the institute in its October semester were over-subscribed and eventually 1,105 students were successful in their applications. In order to provide more opportunities to applicants who could not get a place this semester, Dr Wong said that the institute would offer both courses again in its April semester. Mr Chiu is working at the medical ward of Queen Elizabeth Hospital. 'We have to work shifts and irregular hours. Distance learning allows more flexibility and I can decide my own study schedule,' he said.