Please tell us briefly the history of The Nethersole School of Nursing.
Established in 1991, CUHK’s Department of Nursing is the first university nursing programme in Hong Kong. In appreciation of the generous support of the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Charity Foundation, the department was formally renamed The Nethersole School of Nursing in 2002 and has continued to uphold the motto ‘to serve the community with compassion’ of the original Nethersole School of Nursing—the first nursing school in Hong Kong set up in 1893 under the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital.
The School is ranked first in Hong Kong, third in Asia and 27th in the world. What distinguishes the School from others?
The School strives to offer quality undergraduate and postgraduate nursing education in line with CUHK’s mission of whole-person development. Over the years, the School has established its reputation and been widely recognized locally and internationally, thanks to the joint efforts of our dedicated teachers and staff who share the same goal. The teacher-student relationships are close. Students’ opinions and needs are addressed promptly. Our programme is the most popular one among the three publicly-funded bachelor programmes in nursing. Each year, we receive over 6,000 applications for about 200 places. Our programme has remained the largest one with the highest average admission GPA. Our graduates are given top priorities by hospitals.
What areas do you want to do even better?
Currently, we have about 1,200 undergraduate and 600 postgraduate students. It’s very important to improve the effectiveness of big class teaching by means of technology, e.g., Clickers, UReply [classroom response systems]. On the other hand, small tutorial classes of about 20 students enable thorough and in-depth discussions.
Though a lot of our research is closely related to local community, including residential care for stroke patients after discharge from hospitals and care for people with dementia, we are also aiming at large-scale collaborative multidisciplinary and inter-institutional research. We have yet to acquire more experience in using big data to inform cross-countries and cross-cultural nursing research.
What challenges do you see the School facing in the near future?
The standard of nursing practice is getting higher due to manpower shortage and nurses are increasingly tasked with a wider range of healthcare responsibilities. But the publicly-funded nursing first degree places haven’t been increased. On the other hand, self-funded institutions and hospitals have launched degree, professional/higher diploma level nursing programmes thereby increasing the numbers of graduates. Our challenge lies in nurturing more nurses with the highest standard. Furthermore, the private health sector has sought to lure nursing teachers with more attractive offers. We have to adopt different strategies to retain our staff and support their teaching and research work.
Is it difficult to recruit nurses or attract young people to join the profession?
It’s no easy job. The public hospitals lost 780 nurses last year and the turnover rate reached 5.2%. With more than 700 nurses retiring in the coming three years and the opening of new public and private hospitals, the shortage will become more acute. Fortunately, there are a lot of enthusiastic and capable young people who would like to work in the healthcare sector. Our students are very committed. Their employment rate is 100% and over 80% of them work in public hospitals.
Can you think of ways to ease the shortage?
The problem can only be dealt with through a long-term and comprehensive healthcare manpower policy by the government. In the meantime, we’ve proposed to the government to allocate ad hoc funding for five years to increase 50 degree places each year, i.e., a total of 250 nursing graduates in the next five years.
What advice do you have for graduating students?
Maintain work-life balance and do more exercise. Finding meaning in your career helps to sustain your passion. Be a team player and work closely with your team members. Equip yourselves by continuing to acquire new knowledge to meet new challenges. When the going gets tough, seek support from Hospital Authority counsellors or the School’s teachers. Our door is always open.
This article was originally published in No. 495, Newsletter in Apr 2017.