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Introducing traditional Chinese nursing: a review of concepts, theories and practices


Xiaohong Liu, School of Nursing, Second Military Medical University, No. 800 Xiangyin Road, Yangpu District, Shanghai 200433, China; Tel: +86-21-81871507; Fax: +86-21-65483473; E-mail:


HAO Y., LIU H., YUE S. & LIU X. (2011) Introducing traditional Chinese nursing: a review of concepts, theories and practices. International Nursing Review58, 319–327

Aim:  This paper discussed the basic concepts, theories and practices of traditional Chinese nursing (TCN) to enrich our understanding of relevant concepts and ways to contribute to human health.

Background:  Advantages of TCN include health education based on theories and techniques of traditional Chinese medicine. It focuses mainly on mobilizing humans' capacity for self-adjustment and self-rehabilitation to make a dynamic balance between yin and yang, qi and blood and zang and fu. It has played a significant role in the fields of primary nursing, geriatric nursing, hospice, family nursing, etc., in China.

Method:  PubMed, CINAHL, Ovid Medline (English) and the Wang Fang (Chinese) databases were searched for literature on a range of keywords relating to traditional Chinese medicine and nursing. Forty references (13 English and 27 Chinese) were finally selected for review.

Conclusion:  Practices of nursing care in traditional Chinese medicine are based mainly on the theories of yin–yang and the five elements. There are two prime characteristics in the theoretical system of TCN: holism and nursing determination based on syndrome differentiation. The distinctive content include prevention, daily care of patients, dietary nursing, etc. TCN, with its characteristics of little damage, little pain, ease of operation and low cost, is appropriately used in primary health care in China. By combining Western and Eastern philosophies and approaches to nursing, life phenomena can be better understood, and more ways to promote health can be exploited. Scientists are beginning to use Western research methods to establish effectiveness. Many common interventions would not, however, be considered safe in Western nursing practice without more evidence and consideration of health and safety issues.