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A Bogus Cure For Chinese Hospitals: Airline-Style Hostesses

While criticism of medical care in China grows, public hospitals offer a solution that is laughably shallow.

A Bogus Cure For Chinese Hospitals: Airline-Style Hostesses
Zhou Dongxu


BEIJING — There's a new trend in China's public hospitals: "stewardess nurses," sporting smart uniforms, pretty faces and nice airs while providing services such as greeting people with smiles at the entrance, offering cups of water or opening the elevator door for patients.

Such hospital "innovation" is supposed to provide patients with better service. Yet where a flight attendant learns a whole set of rigorous rules and regulations, and is part of a bona fide security profession, stewardess nurses receive just 10 days of training. More to the point, while China's health reform needs real medicine, patients are getting fed a flight attendant image campaign instead.

The airline stewardess indeed holds a unique image in modern Chinese society. Some governmental departments even make their cleaning ladies wear stewardess clothing as a uniform. A dubious sign of the times within our political class.

The idea to staff hospitals with these figures is also simply a huge waste of public money. Apart from the uniforms and the training of these hostesses, human resources and maintenance costs are being thrown away. We have to ask what is the official motivation behind this.

Care for the nurses

The Chinese government has been promoting medical reform for a long time without actually achieving much. Public hospitals spend so much energy and resources promoting such shallow marketing gimmicks that could have been used to make real changes to their core mission of curing the sick.

To start with, instead of employing women in smart clothes who have no training, nurses should be given better rights and working conditions. Why not simply increase the number of actual nurses in hospitals so they don't have to attend to so many unsatisfied patients?

Violent doctor-patient conflicts resulting in the murder of doctors have been a serious issue in China's hospitals in recent years. Most agree that nurses are uniquely positioned to help resolve small disputes, and help to keep conflicts from turning violent.

Solving the doctor-patient problem with stewardess nurses is like prescribing the wrong medicine for a malady. What Chinese hospitals need is to raise their diagnostic quality, enhance their medical care, and maintain responsibility and service levels to win back the confidence of the nation's patients.

Chinese hospitals' structural reform should be focused on management, personnel and regulation. Even while increasing public investment, the hospitals' corporate autonomy should also be improved with the goal of establishing much more modern hospital management. This would help eliminate the current tendency of Chinese hospitals to rely on the revenue from pharmaceutical sales to sustain their operations.

Undeniably, China's hospital reform involves too many competing interests, which makes it virtually impossible to rely on the hospitals themselves to figure out the reforms they need.

Still, stewardess nurses are clearly not the answer. Real nurses are so much more than their uniforms, and curing the poor image of China's hospitals will require long-term care.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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