Training China's caregivers of tomorrow

Organizing healthcare to both ensure quality and efficiency can be a challenge. It becomes even more of a feat when you add the ageing population and cultural differences into the mix. Jeroen van Wijngaarden, Associate Professor Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, however, sees opportunities: “The Chinese situation is both very different and alike. The population is ageing as it is in the Netherlands, but the elderly care system is still very fluid.”

Several years ago, the Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management carried out research on behalf of the WHO on the transformation of care in rural areas in China. “My research focuses on organizational theory in health care. Much literature is based on our western orientation on teams and culture. The question is whether established theories can also be applied in a Chinese setting,” says Van Wijngaarden. “The Chinese status quo is interesting in that aspect, since the elderly care system has to cope with massive inflow. We’re aiming to carry out more research in this field and hired new Chinese PhD’s who will focus on teams and change management.”

Hospital management

Besides exploring organizational theory, the University also cooperates with China in the field of training. “There is an exchange program for Chinese health care professionals, general and nurse managers, who work in hospitals. We offer training courses in hospital management and visits to best practice locations. I joined the LS&H elderly care trade mission to China in May since we are also setting up a similar program for elderly care professionals.” Van Wijngaarden explains that it’s important to realize that a health care system can never just be ‘copied’, but should always be adjusted to a local context. “We offer expertise on for instance quality or financial management. It is up to local institutes to formulate plans, implement, measure and monitor to create a continuous improvement cycle.”

“Both Chinese and Dutch policy makers are facing challenges when it comes to keeping health care affordable. It’s a common challenge and it’s interesting to see what kind of solutions are initiated. A typically Dutch example is home care, which means health care professionals help elderly people still living at home. Our transition to regional care institutions but also our health insurance system is very interesting for China,” says Van Wijngaarden. “At the same time, China is like an innovation hub. An example is a location we visited in Suzhou, where the facility uses facial recognition to keep an eye on dementia patients who are prone to getting lost."


Also on a student-level the Erasmus University is aiming to cooperate more and set up more exchange programs. “To build these relationships it’s important to meet partners in person,” Van Wijngaarden explains. This week the Erasmus University is visiting Beijing to sign an MoU with Tsinghua University. The aim is to carry out more joint research and to exchange more students and researchers.