Two of Hong Kong's leading universities have broadened their efforts to help ease a shortage of nurses in the city. Both the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have developed programmes that offer nurses flexibility in their career choices and aspects of health and nursing care in line with global trends in nursing education.
Dr Shirley Ching, PolyU programme leader of the Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Nursing, says the shortage of nurses means the employment rate for fresh graduates is 100 per cent.
To promote nursing and in response to the four-year tertiary education reform, the HKU and PolyU plan to launch both new and revised programmes. These include replacing the current four-year programmes with a five-year bachelor of nursing and a five-year mental health nursing programme.
"One of the attractions of our new programme is the flexibility for students to study different areas of nursing care. For example, community health care," says Ching. "Students will still need to complete on-the-job training to gain expertise, but at least they will be able to get a taste of nursing areas they might like to specialise in."
PolyU also offers a three-year, full-time master's programme in nursing for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject, such as biology. The same programme is offered over two years for students who have already completed their bachelor in nursing degree.
"Our programmes are developed to provide students with a comprehensive and holistic nursing education which strives to achieve professional excellence in nursing," says Ching.
According to Frederick Yeung, PolyU programme leader of BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Nursing, a growing awareness of the need for psychiatric health care is also driving demand for nurses specialising in the field.
He says job opportunities for qualified mental health care nurses are excellent. In addition to the Hospital Authority - the city's largest mental health nurse employer - non-government organisations which operate hostels and community care facilities, as well as the Social Welfare Department, are in need of psychiatric nurses.
Another big employer is the Correctional Services Department, which needs nurses to care for prisoners with mental health problems. "As society adapts its approach to patients with mental illness, we will need more qualified nurses," says Yeung.
He says the introduction of the five-year mental health nursing curriculum will push next year's government-funded student intake to 70. Including self-funded students, total intake will hit 140 across the four-year and the new five-year programmes, he adds.
HKU's five-year Bachelor of Nursing (Hons) programme, to be launched in September 2012, will focus on the importance of promoting health and emphasise students' acquisition of knowledge, skills and experiences that can be used in the real-world.
The programme is targeted at graduates of the three-year Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education. The general entry requirements include English language level 3, Chinese language level 3, Mathematics level 2, and Liberal studies level 2. Applicants should also have achieved a level 3 in two elective subjects, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Combined science or Integrated science.
Professor Agnes Tiwari, head of the School of Nursing at the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at HKU, says the new programme format encapsulates the university's educational aims to enable students to pursue academic and professional excellence and life-long learning.
"The programme is designed to help students tackle novel situations and problems, critically self-reflect and provide leadership and advocacy for improving the human condition," Tiwari says.
To help students get a feel for real world nursing, preparation begins in the first year of the programme when students meet with practicing nurses and nurse leaders to gain a better understanding of the nursing profession and the work it entails.
This type of guidance continues throughout the programme, for instance, with preparation for job interviews, in the form of a series of professional development and career planning workshops in the final year of the programme.