Professor Sally CHAN
For the past year, Hong Kong has been facing many challenges including the shadow of war at the Gulf area, the local economic downturn, and the outbreak of atypical pneumonia, also known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These have huge impact on Hong Kong people from all walks of life. The resource allocation and manpower planning in both the health care and education sectors are directly affected. With the many uncertainties surrounding the virulent infection and the daily increase of infected people, health care professionals are now facing immense pressure. However, we are so proud that we have in Hong Kong a team of excellent health care professionals serving the citizens with complete devotion. On behalf of the Society, we wish to pay tribute to these professionals for their dedication to the Hong Kong community, and to convey our deepest appreciation and encouragement to them. We sincerely hope that those colleagues who get infected would have a speedy and full recovery.
In this hard battle with the infection, the Society is contributing by working with other nursing and health care groups in providing health education to the public via providing expert advice through hotlines and websites. With concerted efforts, I believe we shall overcome this crisis soon. Dr. Leong Che-Hung, the Patron of the Society spoke at the Society's 17th Annual General Meeting and offered encouragement and recognition to nurses contribution. His speech is published in this issue of the Newsletter. In this issue, we also have a frontline Registered Nurse sharing with us her reflection in this health care crisis.
The Society is now 17 years old. With a good foundation built in the past years, the Society holds on firmly to its commitment of promoting the quality of nursing education in Hong Kong for the good of Hong Kong people. Despite the turbulent internal and external environment, we are proud to let members know that the Society had a very productive year. We have had steady growth in our membership and have provided innovative and interesting activities not only to our members but also to the Hong Kong nursing professionals in general. We have also maintained a very healthy financial status. I would like to give a brief report of the achievements of the Society in the past year and our future plan.
The Commitment of the Society
The Society affirms its commitment in promoting the quality of nursing education in its revised position statement "The direction for development of nursing education in Hong Kong". This document was published in the December 2002 issue of the Society's Newsletter and was widely circulated among the nursing community. We support that a four-year full-time programme is required for the award of "Bachelor of Nursing (Hons)", and this should also be the basic requirement for a registered nurse practising in Hong Kong.
With the closure of hospital based nursing schools, there is a clear demand for increasing the number of first-year first-degree places for nursing. With the current plan, the projected number of first-year first-degree places for nursing programmes in 2003 is approximately 338 which will be insufficient to meet the future demands for nurses.
In April 2002, some members of the Society's EC met with the representative of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Through this direct dialogue with the Government, issues related to nursing education were discussed. The Society expressed that immediate action is required to ensure adequate supply of nurses.
To estimate the nursing personnel needs, the Society wrote to the Hospital Authority, Hong Kong, the Department of Health and the Social Welfare Department to ask for information on nursing personnel projection in the coming five years. After compiling the figures, we wrote to Mr. Tung Chee-Hwa to urge the Government to take immediate action to increase first-year undergraduate places for nursing programmes, undertake accurate nursing personnel projections, and establish a long-term plan for nursing education in Hong Kong. We emphasised that, without such strategies, it is quite possible that there will be an acute shortage of nurses in the years to come just as what is happening in countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The response from the Government is very positive. In the letter, the Government affirms its commitment to the development of nursing education in Hong Kong. Here I quote:
"We shared your vision in the promotion of nursing education and nursing care in Hong Kong. It is the Government's policy objectives to upgrade basic nursing education to degree level for enhancement of quality health care services. Degree level nursing education is also broadly in line with the current international development in pre-registration nursing programme."
The Government promises to take into consideration the Society's proposal in the planning of student number targets in the 2004/05 academic years and the next triennium (i.e. 2005-06 to 2007-08 academic years). It is expected that there will be an increase in nursing degree places in the near future. The Society will closely monitor such development.
To improve the quality of nursing practice, the Society supports the development of advanced nursing practice as an essential requirement to meet the changing demands of health care services. Nurses practising at the advanced level should have at least a Postgraduate Diploma or Master Degree. The Society has actively contributed to the establishment of the Hong Kong Academy of Nursing and hope that the Academy would be a statutory body with the function of regulating advanced nursing practice.
To facilitate continuing professional development of Society's members, seminars and courses were organised to meet the learning needs of members of various specialties. These activities received enthusiastic support from members and non-members. The Society will continue to organise quality continuing education activities to meet the needs of nurses in Hong Kong. We would also like to collaborate with other nursing groups in such endeavours.
In the past year, the Society continued to participate actively in matters related to the development of nursing and nursing education in Hong Kong. The Society has been consulted by the Hospital Authority, the Nursing Council of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Midwife Council on issues related to nursing standards, nursing competencies, continuing nursing education and revision of syllabi of nurses' training. The Society will continue to commit to promoting professional development of nurses in Hong Kong.
With the gradual change in the nursing education system in Hong Kong, the Society has increasing number of members from schools/departments of universities, as well as practitioners from clinical areas including the Department of Health. We believe that the responsibilities towards nursing education are not confined to those who teach in the academic settings, but all qualified nurses have responsibilities in teaching nursing students and fellow nurses. Nurses also have a very important role in health education and health promotion for the Hong Kong community. Based on this conviction, we proposed to amend the Articles of Association in the following manner, namely:
The proposed amendments were passed as a Special Resolution at the Extraordinary General Meeting on 28 March 2003. With this amendment, we can accommodate more members who are committed to nursing education and professional development.
Strengthening Networks with Other Nursing Groups and Health Care Professionals
The Society recognises that networking with fellow nurses groups both in Hong Kong and outside Hong Kong is important for pursuing the mission of the Society. The Society is establishing networks with nursing groups of similar nature in Australia. We have also established a close relationship with nursing groups and education institutes in Macau and Mainland China and are planning for joint ventures in the near future.
With the increasing emphasis of interdisciplinary collaboration in health care, we see the need to expand our networks with medical and allied health professional groups. The Society has participated in the Celebration of the National Day with the Association of Hong Kong Health Care Professionals as a major organiser. This activity reflected that, though individual nurses and health care group may have diverse interests, they share the common value in providing quality health care for the Hong Kong community. Furthermore, the Society remains an affiliated member of the Federation of Medical Societies. We believe that with these networks, the Society can learn from the experiences of other groups in promoting professional development. We could also obtain support from other health care professionals in working towards our mission. We look forward to having more collaborative works with other nursing and health care groups in our future endeavors.
Functioning of the Society's Executive Committee (EC)
To cope with the ever-increasing work, the EC has recruited many co-opted members to help in the Subcommittees. The reports of all the Subcommittees are published in this issue of the Newsletter. The success of the Society is directly related to members' commitment, creativity and hard work. I wish to express my sincerely thanks to all the EC members who have done a wonderful job within their Subcommittees in the past year.
Unfailing Support for the Society
We wish to express our heartfelt thanks to all members of the Society for their support and participation in the Society's activities. The EC members of the current term of office will continue to serve for one more year. I firmly believe that, with a clear vision, commitment and concerted effort, we will continue to do our best in promoting the quality of nursing education and nursing practice in Hong Kong.
Finally, on behalf of the members of the Society, I wish to express our deepest gratitude to Dr. Leong Che-Hung, our Patron, for his unfailing support to the Society. We are also very appreciative of the contribution of the Society's Honorary Advisors, Honorary Legal Advisors, and Honorary Auditor. Their support and encouragement is essential for the growth of the Society in this turbulent environment. We look forward to working closely with them in the future.