China: Wenqing Zhang

A drop of water easily evaporates, yet gains everlasting energy when embraced by the sea. I am willing to be a drop of water so as to make contributions to the peace and health of all human beings.

— Wenqing Zhang

Zhang Wenqing works in Taiyuan Central Hospital. In 2003 she volunteered to work in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) wards, staying there for two months. In April 2004 she was promoted to head nurse of the gastroenterology department. Her nursing service to over 3,000 people, spanning more than 17 years, has won her love and respect.

Zhang Wenqing was born into an ordinary family in Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province. She liked to study and help others, and each year she was awarded the title of Excellent Student. The hardships and the lack of medicines in the villages that she witnessed in her childhood were deeply imprinted on her mind. She was determined to become a nurse. In 1985, 15-year-old Zhang Wenqing enrolled in medical school in Taiyuan to study nursing, psychology, and ethics. After graduation she worked in the medical department of Taiyuan Central Hospital. Later she studied to gain an undergraduate diploma. In 2003, entrusting her 3-year-old daughter and 95-year-old father to her mother-in-law, Zhang worked in the Sars wards. The working conditions were almost unbearable, but Zhang and her team managed to achieve a zero infection rate of medical personnel. In April 2004, due to her excellent work, Zhang Wenqing was promoted to head nurse of the gastroenterology department. The department received an award for being a model department and for excellence in ward management. The average stay of patients in the hospital was shortened by four days, with an eight percent reduction in average expenses. Because of its humanitarian and scientific care, many patients come to be treated here, and have contributed to the 28 percent increase in the department's earnings. Over the last 17 years, more than 3,000 people have received the careful nursing offered by Zhang Wenqing. Her work is imbued with humanity and care, reaching out especially to patients suffering from terminal illnesses, the old, and the widowed. Her careful nursing gives them comfort before they leave the world. She says, "Like Florence Nightingale I am determined to devote my life to the medical cause."