To meet the forecast demand for more registered nurses, the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) launched a new honours degree programme in nursing in 2005. It is a four-year full-time programme and students can choose to focus on either general or mental health care.
"This year the total number of students increased to 140," says Joseph Lee, OUHK associate professor and programme leader for nursing.
A recently signed memorandum of understanding has made the Hong Kong Baptist Hospital a third recognised training partner for the university, joining Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, which has a long history in training nurses, and Castle Peak Hospital.
Course lectures are conducted both on campus and at the individual private hospitals. Students gain clinical experience working on the wards and also through short-term placements in public hospitals, so that they get more all-round exposure.
"Despite the higher intake numbers, the instructor to student ratio in practical sessions will be maintained at one to two at most to ensure that the students are closely observed," says Dr Lee.
At present, 65 students are attached to the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, another 30 to the Hong Kong Baptist Hospital, and 45 specialising in mental health care are at Castle Peak Hospital.
The first class of graduates should complete the programme in 2008, and their skills will be much in demand in both the public and private sectors.
In a further development, OUHK is currently designing a computer simulation centre for the nursing students. It will allow students to practise diagnosis by assessing different symptoms programmed into a life-sized mannequin.
"The centre is also planned to feature a virtual reality machine for the practice of self-defence tactics," says Dr Lee. "This would be particularly useful for mental health care nursing students, and we're now seeking a source of funding."
OUHK has been officially gazetted as a training school for nurses and the programme is under review for accreditation. The programme is the only full-time nursing degree offered outside the normal admission scheme for local universities and, at interview, candidates are expected to show good interpersonal skills and the ambition to pursue a long-term career in the field.