Experiences from the Middle Kingdom – Training Chinese nurses

Experiences from the Middle Kingdom – Training Chinese nurses
Bird’s eye view of the Forbidden City, Beijing

I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Beijing to conduct a training of trainers of Chinese nurses on aspects of tuberculosis (TB).

I was very excited to return to Beijing after a 3 year absence. I’ve spent about 6 years living in China – in different places and at different times – and I jumped at the opportunity to return. I lived in Beijing back in the early to mid 1990s and it still feels like home to me. I even stayed a few blocks from where I used to live and was so amazed at how much the area has changed over the last 16 years, let alone the last 3 years. There are now Starbucks on almost every corner and many high-end stores like Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, etc. in big fancy shiny shopping centers. Back when I lived the neighborhood there was nothing remotely like that and just a government department store where you had to get the attention of the woman behind the counter (if you were lucky) to get what you wanted. While the progress and development changes are great, it is very sad to see the old hutongs (alleys) with the traditional courtyard homes disappear to make way for the shiny new high rises like my old hutong.

It was really difficult for me to reconcile the China I first knew 20 years ago and the China of today….they are like two completely different countries. I feel like I’ve witnessed 70 years of development and progress over a 20 year period. …..truly amazing.

The purpose of my trip to Beijing was to conduct a training of trainers of Chinese nurses on aspects of TB for the International Council of Nurses (ICN). The participants were 28 nurses from all over the country from Xinjiang in the northwest to Heilongjiang Province in the northeast to Hainan in the South. I was amazed by the years of experience the nurses had working in TB  – on average the nurses had 20 years of experience – and this was the first opportunity that any of them had had to attend special training on TB. They were very excited to have the opportunity for training. It is common for physicians to receive training and to attend conferences, but nurses do not have many opportunities for continuing education.

Guo Aimin and me
Me and Guo Aimin

It was an incredible opportunity to get to know the nurses and to hear about the challenges they face in providing care to TB patients and to share potential solutions for improving the care of TB patients in China. It was great to speak Chinese again and when I had difficulty I had the excellent help of a former classmate, Guo Aimin, a former Beijing Union Medical College (PUMC) PhD student who studied at the SON in 2008. Guo Aimin was the local co-trainer and I was thrilled to be working with a friend.

Dinner with the President of the Chinese Nursing Association, the Dean of the PUMC SON and PUMC SON faculty

I was also fortunate to meet with the President of the Chinese Nursing Association along with the Dean from the PUMC School of Nursing.

Later in the week I met up with Wang Yan, another former PUMC PhD student who studied at the SON in 2008, at the Olympic village in Beijing. It was great to see her and catch up.

Wang Yan in front of the Bird’s nest national stadium

China is my first love and it was great to have the opportunity to spend a week in Beijing again! I am looking forward to returning next year to train another group of nurses and to have a follow-up review with the nurses who were trained this year to hear about what they have done with their training.

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