2012年4月22日 星期日

Angels in white 白衣天使

This is a group photo of all nursing students of National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital Nursing School, taken on the graduation day of the first class on March 31, 1952, on the front steps to the Hospital.

Nursing profession arrived in Taiwan with the Presbyterian mission in as early as 1865. Many missionaries were nurses themselves having previously been trained in England or Canada. They took on the clinical duties at missionary hospitals and at the same time taught nursing (among other subjects) to the Taiwanese. These dedicated ladies were usually unmarried and were therefore addressed respectfully as 姑娘 in Taiwanese. [Note: On Aletheia University campus in Tamsui, the building known as 姑娘樓 was where they resided when working for the northern branch of the Presbyterian Church. Most notable among them were 金仁理[Jane Kinney], 高哈拿[Hannah Connell], 李仁美[Geraldine Greer], 黎瑪美[Mable G Clazie], 安義理[Lily Adair], 杜道理[Dorothy Douglas], and 德明利[Isabel Taylor].]

When the Japanese invaded Taiwan in 1895, with the mounting casualties from illnesses, they brought in 10 physicians, 9 pharmacists, and 20 nurses to staff a field hospital in Taipei. In 1898, Japanese women only were admitted to the nurse training program. It was not until 10 years later in 1907, when the program was finally opened to the Taiwanese.

The two training tracks actually ran in parallel; although the indoctrination of the sense of duty was fundamentally different. The missionary way was to inspire a Nightingale-like self-sacrificial higher calling; whereas the Japanese way instilled obedience as part of the social hierarchy where nurses were subservient to [almost all male] physicians. The Japanese tradition is to last to this day even after the introduction of the American system.

The American style nursing education started in 1950 at NTU Hospital [see graduation photo above] which culminated in the establishment of a university-level Nursing School at NTU in 1956. These two levels of nurse education are now the common modes of training in Taiwan.

Part of this long nursing history remains hidden, however. Not known at all was the fact that nurses in Taiwan were drafted, starting in 1942, to serve in the Pacific War. They were 17-18 year-olds, appointed as 特別志願陸軍看護助手 (or 特志看護婦 in short) as members of the IJA. The only surviving evidence is probably the Nursing Assistant's Song, 看護助手の歌. Its lyrics were by 越山正三 and melody by 呂泉生, composed in 1943, and in part:
父母離れ  はるばると 南支那海  乗り越えて 皇軍(みいくさ)進みし  島山に ゆかしく 咲ける  小百合花
乙女と いえど  軍律の きびしき 中に  起き伏して 幾層楼の  病棟に 輝く 愛の  赤十字
Translation: 離開父母,到中南海遙遠的戰地去照顧戰士們,就像是山裡盛開的百合花 [Leaving Mom and Dad behind to take care of soldiers in the far away South China Sea, just like lilies in full bloom on the hills]
雖是小小姑娘,但是在病房裡,就像是充滿輝光的紅十字小護士 [Even though we are little girls, in the wards, we brighten up the whole place, we are the little red-cross nurses]

Sadly, many perished in the battle fields and some starved to death in, e.g., the Philippines, in the waning days of the war. Most survivors, however, still remain silent, not wishing to be confused with the notoriously maltreated comfort women.

More recently, there appears an acute nursing shortage in all hospitals in Taiwan. The average working span for a nurse is now a mere 7 years. The high turnover and even higher attrition, owing to the combination of extremely low pay and absurdly high workloads, are bound to alter the current health care system in a big way.

Angels working in sweatshops? Somehow, this picture does not look right.

4 則留言:

  1. The melody is quick steps, see http://www.geocities.jp/abm168/GUNKA/kangojosyu.html

  2. My friend's mother, a retired nurse who lives in Hsishui Kun (洗水坑) and is nearing ninety, told me that she was recruited to go off to World War II as a nurse (I think it was Singapore). She wanted to go as the pay was much higher, but her parents nixed it as she was an only child. Her friend went. She was tricked however and forced into prostitution, wrongly labeled by the Japanese as a "comfort girl." She came back with an STD and had to marry a much older man. They saw her on the news a while back, protesting for compensation from the Japanese.

  3. Under a very rigid military structure, this "wrongly labeled" part might have been an aberration, or an outright deceit by some unscrupulous operators. We also have family friends who served honorably as 陸軍看護婦 (this is a real rank, BTW); they were no different from, e.g., US military nurses who served in WW2 and the Viet Nam War.

    The first group of 5 nurses who had survived the war came home on 12/24/1945. They came down the mountains near Manila on 9/16, surrendered to and detained by the Americans on 9/18 (in a 收容所, i.e., POW camp), and released on 12/10. They were then sent to Japan before returning to Taiwan. Three of their colleagues had already died in the mountains from illness and starvation.