Volunteers Teach Nursing and Help Elderly in Wuhan, China
Conditions at this nursing home are very bleak. Community care for the elderly is not a common practice in China.
Sharon Redding, RN, PhD is a Certified Nurse Educator from Omaha, NE who has volunteered with Project HOPE since the 1970’s. Linda Rice, RN, MS is a nurse and nurse educator from Phoenix, AZ. Both are volunteering as nurse educators from February to July, 2014 at the Wuhan University HOPE School of Nursing in Wuhan, China.
Linda Rice and I are responsible for teaching the Health Assessment course for the second-year international nursing students. As part of that course, the students have some of their clinical activities at a nursing home in Wuhan.
Conditions at this nursing home are very bleak. Community care for the elderly is not a common practice in China. The elderly usually live with their children and are cared for by them. In cases where there are no family members, these community nursing homes are available on a limited basis.
There are no health care providers at this nursing home – only attendants who assist the elderly. They provide very limited physical care and make sure the residents are fed. The elderly who can walk live on the lower floors of the building, which has no elevators. Those who cannot walk are limited to their rooms on the upper two floors of this four-story story structure. The building is not heated, but some space heaters are available.
The rate of burns among the elderly is high in China, due to the use of space heaters. Most residents have a bed, perhaps a chair, and a small cupboard for their personal items. A year ago, after the nursing students started their clinical activities at this nursing home, they decided that they needed to do more for these residents.
They started doing exercise with the elderly residents, talking with them, doing foot care (washing feet, trimming toenails, assessing for sores/pressure areas), doing neck and shoulder massages, playing games, and doing paper-folding with the residents. They even organized a talent show, which they presented to the residents. The nursing students go to the nursing home every Sunday afternoon and wear a uniform of red baseball caps and display a banner they have had printed.
I am a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society (STTI), Gamma Pi-At Large Chapter in Omaha NE. Our chapter provides grant funding for members who want to promote service-learning activities. I applied for a grant of $350 for the Wuhan nursing home, and it was accepted. I am presenting these funds to the student group this afternoon. They plan to use the money to purchase rubber balls and rubber bands for exercise programs at the nursing home, personal care items and socks for some of the residents. The funds will also pay to have some of the residents’ wheelchairs and walkers repaired and will provide afternoon refreshments at a musical program in May. I am also planning to help Wuhan University HOPE School of Nursing set up their own chapter of STTI, and this service-learning project will be one example of the type of activity that the Wuhan chapter could consider supporting in the future.
This is a good example of the influence Project HOPE has beyond providing education and direct care. Linda Rice and I have accompanied students to this clinical site and shared in clinical and service-learning activities with students who are volunteering. It’s quite a special experience.