Nurse Volunteer in Shanghai, China

Celebrating a Community of 500,000 Strong!

By Jen Fox

November 9, 2018



Wanderlust Nurse: A Travel Nurse Volunteer in Shanghai, China

What happens when a Travel Nurse Volunteers in China? One of our FB Group Members is currently in Shanghai. With tons of interest and questions from the group, we asked her if she would provide a run-down of what it took to get there and her initial thoughts on being a Nurse Volunteer in China.

Guest Post: Wanderlust Nurse

I’m currently in Shanghai, China, volunteer teaching nursing to students. Here, I’ll talk about how I ended up here, what was required, and challenges I’ve experienced. You can also read more about my adventures over at Wanderlust Nurse!

“How did you get to go to China to teach nursing?!”

It wasn’t something I actually thought of doing, ever, well at least not up until I applied. Just pick up and move to a foreign country where I don’t speak the language to teach nurses? I have taught clinicals, some staff classes, been a primary preceptor, and really enjoyed all of that. I reserved the thought of university teaching for much later in my life. But sometimes things happen in our lives at the right time, and you just think, “Why not?”

I was on Facebook one day and saw one of my GVSU nursing school classmate’s pictures from a volunteer project with Project Hope. For some reason, I decided to visit their website, and “China-Volunteer Nurse to teach at San Da School of Nursing” jumped out at me. I had the minimum qualifications (MSN, two years of nursing education-related work experience; no Chinese language skills required) so I talked it over with my wife, and applied on August 1st. I thought I’d just put it out into the universe and see what happened.

Project Hope contacted me a week later, asking for my availability. I was caught off guard, and had a million questions for them. We emailed back and forth for 4 months, and I finally bought my ticket on New Year’s Eve 2014.

“What did you need to do to prepare to go to China?”

To prepare for my visit, I had a background check, and had to have a physician sign a statement declaring I was fit for international travel…really not much different from all the paperwork required for a travel nursing job. I did get a polio booster because there are active cases of polio in China. The other recommended vaccines were MMR, DPT, Hep A, Hep B, and Typhoid, which I’ve had because of my job, and from my previous travels in Southeast Asia. In addition to that, I had to apply for a Chinese visa, because it is required for stays longer than 72 hours. I am from Michigan, and the closest Chinese consulate is in Chicago. The visa application has to be delivered IN PERSON, so, we thought we’d drive, to Chicago, in the middle of winter…just to save a few bucks. It was FREEZING, and this is coming from a girl who grew up in Michigan. We even had to make 2 trips because they won’t issue the visa on the same day. Next time, I think I will just cough up the visa service fee.

“What type of compensation do you receive while you are in China?”

I think for a “volunteer position”, my compensation is very generous. Project Hope and San Da University reimbursed me for my RT flight ($1900) & Chinese visa ($140), provide a monthly stipend (about $300), and pay for my housing (a very nice 2 bedroom apartment). I also get a meal card that I can use on campus, where a cafeteria lunch costs $1.28. The Metro costs 48-80¢ per ride, and I take a free university shuttle bus to campus (about 40 minutes each way) on days I teach.

“What have you seen and eaten in Shanghai?”

We have visited many parks and gardens, some temples, and eaten a lot of dumplings. I find the food to be good, but somewhat bland. Shanghai is not known for spicy or extremely flavorful food. Think of a Chinese restaurant menu item with the white/light sauce, and that’s pretty much the flavor of a lot of things: salty, maybe a little sweet. What Shanghai is known for are their xiaolongbao, or “soup dumplings”: little pillows of heaven for your mouth that could scald you with their internal soupy goodness. Delicious.

“What cultural differences have you noticed?”

A city of 25 million people, Shanghai is surprisingly clean, and very easy to get around using the Metro. But there are A TON of people and the concept of personal space isn’t a reality here, so the metro rides can get interesting. We get stared at, a lot. They don’t pretend to just take a side look, they full on STARE, and then when I turn back to look at them again, STILL STARING. Yes, I am white, and I look different than you. So, little things like that are definitely a cultural adjustment.

I’ve seen a lot of personal grooming in public spaces: nose picking & Q-tip using on the Metro. Girls are all very touchy, so best friends hold hands. On the first day, my faculty mentor, Rong Rong, just linked her arm in mine, which caught me off guard. Not in a bad way, just in a, we-don’t-do-that-at-home way. Also, pedestrians are the lowest life form. Even when there’s a “Walk” symbol, you still have to look both ways the entire time you’re crossing the street. Cars just don’t stop.

“What challenges have you experienced in Shanghai?”

One of the biggest challenges is the language barrier. It was not a requirement for the position; however, day-to-day life outside of our apartment really requires some knowledge of the language. There’s a lot of miming and hand gestures to convey what we want. Also, that all of Google is blocked, including Google Translate & Maps, has been difficult.

At school, the challenge is creating all original content for my classes. I cannot use the school’s textbooks, as they are in Chinese. I did bring a CCRN book, as well as a couple of digital books to help, but it is just a lot of work. And I wasn’t really expecting that. My ‘Intensive Care Nursing’ lecture is a total of 160 minutes, and coming up with enough content and PPT slides is an enormous amount of work. At least with a nursing job, I can just work my 3, 12’s and not have to think about work again until I go back. Here, it’s like, when’s my next class, how long is the class, gotta make some more PPTs. Even on the weekends, I’m preparing for my Monday class. It’s a completely different workload.

Many Travel Nurses Volunteer in foreign countries. If you are a Travel Nurse Volunteer and would like to share your story, we would LOVE to feature it!  If you’re interested in sharing your experience and contributing to The Gypsy Nurse, please contact us.

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