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The past, present and future of nursing education in the People’s Republic of China: a discussion paper


S.W.-C. Chan:


Gao L.-L., Chan S.W.-C. & Cheng B.-S. (2012) The past, present and future of nursing Education in the People’s Republic of China: a discussion paper. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(6), 1429–1438.


Aim.  This article presents a discussion of nursing education development in the People’s Republic of China in its historical, economic and sociopolitical contexts.

Background.  China has a population of 1·3 billion with about 2·18 million nurses. With the recent surging economic and social development in China, nursing education has undergone transformation changes in the past two decades.

Data sources.  Online bibliographical databases from 1990 to 2010 were searched including CINAHL, MEDLINE, Wan Fang Data and Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure. Search terms included nursing education, China and development.

Methods.  Thematic analysis and narrative synthesis were used to identify and report themes from literature.

Results.  Database searches yielded 1674 papers, and 34 met the inclusion criteria for review. The standard of nursing education varies greatly in different parts of China, because of its huge size and population, with pre-registration programmes offered at the secondary, associate degree and baccalaureate level. Multi-level nursing education is one of the major barriers for professional development. There is a need to upgrade the pre-registration education to at least associate degree level. There is also a need to enhance graduate nursing education at master and doctoral level to prepare advanced practice nurses, nurse scientists and nursing faculty.

Conclusion.  The challenges for nursing education development in China are echoed and encountered in many parts of the world. The experience in China and the lessons learned would be relevant to developing countries. Nursing in China must continue to develop in parallel to international trends. Promoting communication and maintaining international links are important for the global development of nursing practice.