Information Services Office   19.12.2011


CUHK student nurses practice in Prince of Wales Hospital.
Prof. Diana T.F. Lee (front row, middle) with staff and students of The Nethersole School of Nursing.
Prof. Carmen W.H. Chan
Prof. Ip Wan-yim
Clinical instructors demonstrate in ward
Newsletter No. 389 > Feature > Nursing the Body and the Soul

Nursing the Body and the Soul


Introduction to Feature Series—
Anatomy of an Academic Programme

The transmission of knowledge, the stimulation of the thinking mind, the promotion of research and the creation of new knowledge are the core missions of universities as seats of higher learning. And, of all these mandates, the transmission of knowledge ranks as the most important, and the academic programme is its vehicle. The core values of a programme should be enduring, but the contents, structure, and mode of implementation must move with the times and the needs of society, as it is said in The Great Learning: ‘If you can one day renovate yourself, do so from day to day. Yea, let there be daily renovation.’ (tr. James Legge)

The full-time Bachelor of Nursing (BN) Programme at CUHK has been run for 16 years, and is the largest among all programmes of its kind funded by the University Grants Committee. To ensure that the programme answers to the requirements of the developing society, its design and implementation have been changed many times. Some of the changes have come from the course operators’ own initiative, while others have been inspired by reviews.

Graduates of the BN Programme are eligible for the qualification of registered nurse in Hong Kong, and the programme is periodically assessed by the Nursing Council of Hong Kong (HKNC). Prof. Diana T.F. Lee, director of the Nethersole School of Nursing, CUHK, said, ‘We are very serious about our business whether it is a review or an accreditation. This is not so much accountability to the University as the accountability to the programme itself, and to the community at large. To make sure that we are all aiming at the same objectives and to maintain the coherence of the programme, we need to understand each other’s work. This includes the close linkage between programme modules, and the assurance that the core competences of our graduates will meet the requirements of HKNC. Programme review provides an excellent chance for internal communication and self-reflection.’

From the Classroom to the Ward

Prof. Carmen W.H. Chan, programme coordinator, says, ‘Apart from the curriculum and teaching hours prescribed by HKNC, the BN Programme carries requirements in disciplines other than nursing and related subjects. Students also undertake training in behavioural and social sciences, the natural sciences, and management and leadership studies. The ratio between theoretical and clinical teaching, in terms of hours and credits, is about one to one.’

Practicum in clinical conditions is essential to the success of the programme, and great care must be taken not to overload the students, but to help them fulfil the requirements effectively. The studies of each academic year consist of both classroom teaching and clinical practice to help students learn to put theories to practice. Clinical practice increases as they progress, and in the fourth year takes up the entire second term.

The Body, the Mind, the Community and the Soul

The admission grades of freshmen admitted to the BN Programme have ranked the highest within the category among local universities since 1995. Every year there are over 3,000 applicants but only 200 places. Prof. Ip Wan-yim, the admission officer of the programme, has this to say on how students are selected, ‘Sincerity and their attitude are very important. Each applicant must attend a group interview made up of about six to eight applicants. Professors will seek to know each applicant’s understanding of, and enthusiasm for, the nursing profession. They will observe how they interact and communicate, and whether they are proactive and willing to accept others’ opinions.’ Professor Lee succinctly suggests, ‘A good nurse is one that exercises both the hands and the mind together. The hands will implement the medical regime intended to bring the patient back to health, but her actions must be well coordinated with the mind. This is because nursing does not involve skills alone, but a sound knowledge of the medical reasons behind as well. The nurse must work whole-heartedly. One who is not willing to communicate cannot be a nurse.’

The younger generation, being not so experienced in the rough edges of life, naturally finds it uneasy working among the sick. Professor Chan notes that it is part of the teachers’ work in the School to help overcome such aversions. Some students, being upset by what they see in the wards, would complain to the teachers in tears, and the teachers will listen and give them encouragement. The clinical tutor will quietly influence the students by setting an example for them. The students will gradually learn to sympathize with the sufferers but at the same time maintaining their own emotional stability. Professor Lee also adds, ‘After the four-year programme, the young people will, after coming into contact with all walks of life, having taken the scolding for blunders made in the wards, and witnessing birth, ageing, sickness and death, all of a sudden, mature miraculously.’

Responsiveness to Changes

From around the turn of the century, the BN Programme has gradually expanded to cover regional nursing, and there was an increased emphasis on geriatric care. In 2007, the BN Programme was rated as an excellent programme in the University’s programme review exercise. However, faculty members of the School have not since sat on their laurels.

Professor Chan said, ‘At that time we began to think: what should be the characteristics of our programme in CUHK’s context? We should complement the core values in the University’s strategic plans, namely, the holistic development of the graduates, the power to communicate, experiential learning and the power to cope with changes. Space must be found to enable students to participate in extra-curricular activities and exchange programmes, to raise their multi-cultural awareness, and to facilitate their personal development.’

A seed fund has been established in the School to encourage experimentation with innovative teaching methods and facilities, and the Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research has given our teachers much assistance in this aspect. During their first year teaching, all newly recruited faculty members are required to invite senior colleagues to class inspection sessions, and be subject to peer assessment. Teachers are also required to take care of the patients in the wards each year, so as to teach by personal demonstration, and refresh themselves with the latest information about clinical services.

The insertion of peer assessment on group projects has won special praise in the review. Apart from the teachers’ comments and the grades awarded, each group member is required to criticize the performance and contribution of the other members, and the issues involved include the ideas proposed, data collection and compilation, project management and presentation of results. Research-based findings have shown that the students, being vested with the roles of both the critic and the criticized, tend to show a raised sense of responsibility, improved teamwork, as well as an enhanced ability to share their learning experience.

Multi-directional Communication and Traditions through the Generations

The BN Programme conducts various surveys every year to solicit feedback from students, recruiters and alumni. On account of the deep-rooted ‘teacher-disciple’ convention in the nursing industry, there is also close relationship between teachers and graduates. Course coordinators would generally have a meal two or three times every year with the student ambassadors and class representatives. Another self-initiated institution is the ‘mentoring group’. Each group consists of two teachers and 10 students and regular gatherings, which take the forms of barbecues, teas, watching videos and freely talking about personal experiences. Such are the formal and informal manners in which stakeholders’ opinions are collected, and they form an important part in curricular planning and review.

Professor Ip is also responsible for alumni affairs. She said, ‘We often say this to students: “the University, being your alma mater, will forever be your support. You are always welcome, whether because you have run into difficulties, or just come back to benefit other students with what you have excelled in.”’ The Nursing School has had 12 classes of graduates so far and many of them are already occupying high offices within the industry. Graduates always rally to the support of the School and many of the School’s teachers and clinical instructors are alumni. Professor Ip’s grand vision is that a territory-wide support network for all CUHK medical, nursing and health personnel could be established, one which will act as an important resource for the University and which is closely connected to the School’s teaching, clinical studies, and professional practice.

(There are a good many other academic programmes at CUHK which are distinguished, popular, and highly rated in quality audit exercises. We shall introduce them one by one in future issues.)

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