Young nurses earning their stripes in Shanghai

If she hadn't gone to the front line to fight the epidemic in Shanghai last month, Yang Siqi would be taking part in a nursing skills contest in Fujian province right now, to celebrate her first International Nurse Day as a qualified nurse on May 12.

On April 7, Yang, who started working at the Fujian Provincial People's Hospital in July, arrived in Shanghai to look after COVID-19 patients in a makeshift hospital at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center.

It was her first time in Shanghai and also the first time the 21-year-old had left her parents.

Yang told China Daily she hadn't actually thought too much about the meaning of being a nurse until she came to Shanghai to help prevent and control the latest outbreak of the virus.

"I studied nursing, so it follows that I'd become a nurse. But I'd thought little about the unspoken details about the occupation before and the great responsibility of it all," she said.

She said she was moved watching television programs in which medics across China came to support Wuhan, a city hit hard by COVID-19 two years ago, but she also confirmed that she was not aware of how serious the virus was nor what she would do if she was one of the nurses.

Now that she's personally involved in the anti-epidemic battle, seeing locked-down Shanghai with her own eyes and following the infections closely, she added, "I've begun realizing how critical the time is and understanding what an important role a nurse can play."

Each shift she works in the 7,000-bed makeshift hospital lasts for at least four hours and she must wear protective clothes at all times.

Although the patients there are asymptomatic or only mild cases, those with chronic and underlying diseases can face urgent complications if they are not given the appropriate care or careful medical observation.

"I'm needed there, whether it is for my nursing skills or just to provide a kind greeting to lift patients' spirits," Yang said.

"The feeling is like a firework. Even if it's only a flash, it can illuminate others.

"I've truly understood the meaning of saving lives, discovering that I still have a lot of nursing and first aid knowledge to learn. If I become stronger, I'll play a bigger role in my work."

According to Zhao Hongjia, Party chief of the Fujian Provincial People's Hospital, it has dispatched a total of 121 nurses to provide medical assistance in Shanghai.

Regarding the nurses as a major force on the front line, she said that fighting against the epidemic is an opportunity for young generations to grow up and learn how to overcome difficulties.

But to alleviate their fatigue during the outbreak, "we're planning to organize some fun games for them to play and even hold an online karaoke contest for this year's International Nurse Day to mark the special and difficult period we're going through together," she added.

Yan Linjing, who has also worked in the makeshift hospital in Shanghai for over a month, said she decided to brave the epidemic without hesitation after learning Fujian would send a medical team to aid the metropolis.

"Healing the wounded and rescuing the dying is what a medic should do. I'm not afraid, and I think I need such a chance to practice," the 22-year-old said.

Wang Rong, a nurse with experience of the anti-epidemic fight in Wuhan, Hubei province, also voluntarily came to Shanghai on April 3.

Different from the nursing care she provided two years ago, her major job this time is to allocate medical supplies for medics in the Shanghai New International Expo Center.

She highlighted the importance of getting the supplies right, saying that the better protection of medical staff means a more sustainable treatment for infections.

"The aim of being a nurse has never changed, which is to put people first and ensure they can be given good care in critical moments," she added.

Statistics from the National Health Commission's bureau of medical administration showed that China had over 5 million nurses by the end of last year, more than double the number from a decade ago.

On Monday, the commission released a five-year development plan for the nursing sector, aiming to raise the total number of nurses nationwide to 5.5 million and the number of nurses per 1,000 people to 3.8 by 2025.

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