Nursing by listening: health on board the ships

Updated: 2011-12-26 09:48

By Li Lianxing (China Daily)

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BEIJING - "I personally don't feel that I brought too much difference to the ship, but I can feel that the soldiers were willing to talk to us and we inspired each other during the mission."

Xiang Jiaorong was talking about her role as one of the first seven female soldiers who joined the escort mission to the Gulf of Aden in 2009. She was a nurse at a navy hospital in Zhejiang province, in East China, when she was selected. It would be her first time serving aboard ship.

"The dorm was so small and tight that we could hardly move in it," she said. "That was the first time for us in the grassroots unit to experience the real life of a bluejacket."

The mission lasted 158 days.

"The beautiful scene in the ocean was so attractive in the first 15 days, but after that, all the excitement and freshness disappeared and left us with discomfort and boredom," she said.

"I was lucky that I didn't have a boyfriend waiting for me, but 158 days is long enough to make me homesick. At such moments, mutual encouragement with the guys is vital."

Shao Xiaoqin, like Xiang, was selected after rigorous screening for physical strength, professional performance and psychological health.

Nursing by listening: health on board the ships

Shao Xiaoqin checks a soldier's blood pressure on board ship. She was one of seven nurses who were the first women to join the escort operations, on the third mission. Guo Gang / Xinhua 

"As nurses on the deck, we were mainly responsible for soldiers' health," she said, "but sometimes we also organized entertainment activities for them." Those included radio broadcasts and poetry and sports competitions.

Shao said they encountered relatively little illness on board, so the nurses' daily work was to distribute vitamin supplements when needed and give routine physical checkups.

"Food that has enough nutrition was prepared sufficiently, and soldiers received relevant psychological training before departure, so in a general sense the mental and physical health of the soldiers was quite positive," she said.

"It is inevitable to get depressed or bored in a repetitive and enclosed condition like this," Xiang said. "If there is someone they can talk to, the situation will be better."

The success of the first female soldiers has opened a new professional path for other women in the navy.

"It is not that women are incapable of working on the deck. It was limited by the ship condition," said Wang Hongmin, captain of the frigate Xuzhou. "Based on the experience in the escort mission, we are now changing the working conditions on the ship and encouraging more women to work on the deck."

He said if there is any suitable vacancy, male and female soldiers have equal opportunities to compete for it.

"Female soldiers' role can't be limited to nurses. Indeed, there are now more and more women in communications and steering positions in the Chinese military."