Penn State Nursing Students Learn Traditional Techniques on Trip to Hong Kong

hongkongpennstateWhile modern medicine is often associated with cutting-edge equipment and exciting new practices, many older and simpler techniques are also returning to the forefront. From spinal adjustments to acupuncture, these methods may seem outdated in comparison to newer technologies, but can also have extremely effective results. For this reason, six students from Pennsylvania State University’s nursing program recently traveled to Hong Kong to learn about Chinese health care, nursing and chiropractors education.

The program is part of a reciprocal arrangement with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CHUK): under the agreement, Penn State’s College of Nursing sends up to 10 students to the university each winter for two weeks of studying and traveling. In return, 10 students from CHUK visit Penn State every fall. This year, the group from Penn State spent most of the trip learning about traditional Chinese medicine, with several students volunteering to test various techniques, ranging from cupping to acupuncture.

From the beginning, there were reportedly some challenges facing students from both institutions, especially when they attended classes together: in many classes, the students from Hong Kong did not understand English, causing the instructors to speak in Cantonese, a language the foreign students did not speak. Fortunately, CHUK students are required to take all of their exams in English, creating some opportunities for communication. Because of this, students from Penn State were able to compare their health care systems with students students from Australia, China, Taiwan, England and Denmark. As part of this process, the American students were able to visit a Chinese ambulance depot, a Red Cross testing lab, and discuss several recent health emergencies, including the 2002 and 2003 outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

However, the most interesting part of the trip was likely the practical demonstrations, which encompassed everything from chiropractic care and acupuncture to moxibustion, cupping and tongue diagnosis. While some of these techniques are becoming popular in the U.S., others are still relatively unknown.

Moxibustion is a traditional therapy used to promote blood and energy flow. Cupping is another ancient practice used to relieve flu symptoms and back pain, in which a bowl-like instrument is suctioned to the skin, leaving a red ring that is believed to mobilize blood flow. Finally, tongue diagnosis uses the color, coating and other qualities of the tongue to trace health problems to various parts of the body.