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May 2007

A whole new world

Seven students from the School of Nursing got a taste of Asia this spring: They spent 12 days visiting Beijing, Wuhan and Shanghai and, most importantly, studying the Chinese healthcare system.

The students, all seniors who raised their own funds for the trip, traveled in March with Dr. Jie Hu, a Beijing native and an assistant professor of nursing.

"I don’t know that there's something specific I'm looking for – because I want to know about everything. I want to soak it up like a sponge," said Emily Eddins, an honors student from Pleasant Garden, before she left.

After a 15-hour flight to Beijing and a short stay there, the students headed to Wuhan in southern China. Wuhan University is a prestigious institution in China, Hu said. Students teamed up with counterparts from Wuhan's nursing school to conduct community wellness checks, learn about traditional Chinese medicine and assess the general health of the community.

Nursing care is handled much differently in China than in the United States. In China nurses work on a functional nursing model – one nurse performs one task for a large number of patients. In the U.S., Hu said, a nurse provides all aspects of care for a smaller number of patients using a "nursing process" that gives her a more holistic view of the patient.

Hu said her students compared health trends and disease rates in China and the U.S. For example, rates of diabetes and cancer have risen in China partly due to an increasing western influence that includes fast food and tobacco. China is growing at a phenomenal rate, she said. When she returned to Beijing a few years after leaving home for the U.S. she was shocked. "I could not recognize the streets. It's a changing country."

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