Beijing nurses serve mentally ill with expertise, compassion

( ) Updated: 2014-05-12 10:39:03

Though China's Mental Health Law, which went into effect in May 2013, raised the profile of patients with mental illness, few in the country are as familiar with their daily struggles as the nurses who care for them.

On Monday, nurses at Beijing Anding Hospital will observe International Nurses Day along with their peers worldwide. Nurses at Anding Hospital treat the mentally ill, a high-pressure career that requires specialized skills. Though mental health nursing has not always offered the recognition or career development of other health fields, the nurses say the job gives them access to life stories that often go unheard.


Liu Yulian has worked at Beijing Anding Hospital for 29 years and is head nurse of the third inpatient area, where about 60 patients with schizophrenia are being treated.

Liu starts her work routine at 7:30 in the morning, making the rounds of the wards, handling shift handover with the night staff and instructing on the day's priorities. Speaking with young nurses about their thoughts is also part of her job.

In personnel training, she believes that teaching by personal example is much more important than verbal instruction.

At the end of last year, Liu was slapped in the face by a newly hospitalized patient who insisted on being accompanied by family in violation of hospital rules. The head nurse said nothing.

Liu said that later in the day, one of the young nurses came over to her and said, "How can you make it seem as if nothing happened this morning?"

Liu responded that the patient would not have behaved that way if she had not been suffering from mental illness.

For Liu, showing the young nurses to have sympathy for their patients is as important as teaching them about safety procedures.

"I have never changed jobs, although I got the position by chance and didn't have much fun at the very beginning," Liu said. "After years of work, I began to love what I do very much because this experience has inspired and influenced my outlook on life and the world."

"There's a story behind every single patient medical record," she said.

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