China is to encourage more volunteers to provide nursing care to mark International Nurses Day on May 12, a health ministry official said at a press briefing Monday.
"Apart from nursing students, we are also going to recruit people without nursing backgrounds to provide help in hospitals," said Guo Yanhong, an official in charge of nursing affairs of the Ministry of Health.
She said such a practice had been successfully adopted in the quake-relief effort following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Yushu, as some people volunteered to interpret for the medical staff.
Guo said nurses will play a greater role in health counseling and rehabilitation in the future, as non-communicable and chronic disease has become the top killer of Chinese.
Guo said the past five years witnessed a rapid growth in nurse numbers -- reaching 2.18 million at the end of last year, an increase of 870,000 in five years.
Now in China for every thousand people there are 1.4 nurses, compared to 1,000 to 1 ratio in 2004.
The government's push to increase nurse numbers and ensure better training for them had been a great success, Guo said, adding that "Nurses specialized in intensive care and emergency care played a crucial role in the quake relief following the 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and the recent earthquake in Yushu."
When asked to comment on the current low pay of nurses relative to their workload, Guo said the government was introducing measures so nurses' pay would be performance based.
Apart from economic incentives, the ministry also urged hospitals to give nurses more upward mobility, training and education opportunities, said Guo.