Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Nursing Ethics in Modern China: Conflicting Values and Competing Role Requirements

Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Nursing Ethics in Modern China: Conflicting Values and Competing Role Requirements

Article excerpt

Nursing Ethics in Modern China: Conflicting Values and Competing Role Requirements by Pang S. Mei-chen (New York and Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003) (265 pages; $52 paper)

With inroads of market forces in China and implementation of a "one-child policy" since the 1980s, new ethical issues have arisen in the area of health care. Chinese nurses, as the majority of front-line workers, have to deal with these issues in their day-to-day practices. However, until now, there has been no systematic inquiry into their ethical experiences, which are challenged by the tension between virtues of traditional ethics represented by socialist humanism and values of a modern Chinese market economy centered on cost containment and quality consciousness. In this sense, Pang S. Mei-chen's study fills the gap by providing viewpoints of Chinese nurses in their ethical appraisal of nursing practice and patient care situations. This may be the first time that Chinese nurses' voices can be heard. Two lines of inquiry are taken to understand nursing ethics in China: the use of rich historical sources that examine a prescribed morality for nurses during different periods of nursing's evolution in China, and extensive field studies that examine nurses' appraisals of their current ethical responsibilities.

Although the purpose of this study was to explore Chinese nurses' ethics in modern China, Pang's first level of inquiry attempts to make sense of traditional nursing ethics and demonstrates how the contemporary ethical dilemma of Chinese nursing has been shaped over the past century. Missionary nurses initially introduced the concept of nursing to China in the nineteenth century. Setting Florence Nightingale as a model injected a moral sense into nursing. Then from 1949 to 1978, outside influences were cut off due to China's isolation policy. Nursing training received less emphasis and came to a total halt during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s when the entire educational system was disrupted. At that time, the ethics of nursing practice were guided by Mao Zedong's mandate to rescue the dying, heal the wounded, [and] serve the people wholeheartedly.

Then in 1980, market forces were initiated in China, and nursing education gradually resumed. With the challenges of consumerism as a core socioeconomic value in contemporary Chinese society, external pressures such as education and management measures have fostered ethical mandates in the delivery of health-care. …

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