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People's Daily: China's nurses in short supply

People's Daily logoNovember 24, 2004 -- Today China's People's Daily ran a short unsigned piece about the dearth of nurses in China, using relevant statistical data and several quotes from Zhang Guixia, the secretary general of the China Nurses Association. According to the piece, China's rate of about one nurse for every thousand people makes it "third last in the world on this measure." Experts reportedly state that it is "urgent" to enact corrective legislation and to improve nurses' economic status.

The item reports that of China's six million health professionals, only 1.2 million are nurses--though the nation's Ministry of Health has "required" that hospitals maintain a physician-nurse ratio of one to 2.3, and a nurse-patient ratio of one to 2.5. The piece also states that in some developed nations, there may be as many as three nurses for every one thousand people. (In fact, as a recent report (pdf) from the International Council of Nurses makes clear, some developed nations have more than one nurse per one hundred people.) In any case, the piece reports that China has improved its nursing education, with over 300 colleges and universities offering a nursing major and more than 50,000 nursing graduates in 2003.

The remainder of the piece is mostly quotes from Zhang Guixia, who notes that patients' expectations for nursing care have grown with China's development: besides "the traditional hard and urgent treatment, they hope nurses offer them more soft help, including health consultation and exercising after operation. But due to the shortage of nurses, their needs are often not fully fulfilled." Zhang Guixia emphasizes both economic and social reasons for the shortage. She notes that "the real problem lies with the loss of nurses:" some hospitals do not hire enough nurses for financial reasons, and hospitals (particularly small and mid-sized ones) do not pay nurses well, sometimes urging them to "try [their] luck in other industries." But she also stresses that nurses are "in a much less important status than doctors" in hospitals and that they deserve more "recognition" for their hard work. She urges the government to enact further legislation, and to enforce the existing rules as to nurse staffing.

The piece is a good basic look at aspects of the nursing shortage that are obviously not unique to China.

See China's People's Daily article "Nurses in short supply" from its November 24, 2004 edition.

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