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Nursing Education Comparison in Saudi Arabia and China


This paper is comparing the systems of nursing education in Saudi Arabia and China. I expected that nursing education in these countries could be under the influence of national and cultural peculiarities. The paper reviews the issues of political history and development of nursing education, government and nursing organizations that have impact on the training of nurses, and current system of nursing education including post-graduate aspect.

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Political History and Development of Nursing Education

Saudi Arabia

The first nursing educational institution appeared in Saudi Arabia as a result of cooperation of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO). It was a health institute for boys created in 1958 (Almalki, FitzGerald, & Clark, 2011). Female nursing schools opened only in 1961. Despite economic and political challenges of 1960s, the government managed to improve both healthcare and education sectors (Al-Hashem, 2016). An increase in health education was observed in late 1980s. Attention of government to prevention and control programs contributed to the increase of attention to health education.


The history of nursing in China dates back to the establishment of missionary hospitals and organization of some training for medical personnel (Wong & Zhao, 2012). The first nurse training program started in 1837 in Guangdong. Almost a century later, Peking Union Medical College began the first baccalaureate program in nursing. Already in 1933, there appeared governmental nursing schools. During the cultural revolution of 1966-1976, all programs suspended (Wong & Zhao, 2012). Starting from the late 1970s, major Chinese universities resumed nursing programs, both baccalaureates and masters.

Comparison of countries

Nursing education in China has deeper historic roots than in Saudi Arabia due to the different history of the countries. However, in both countries its development was significantly influenced by the political history because in the critical moments the progress of education was slower. Another similarity is significant governmental support of nursing education in Saudi Arabia and China.

Government and Nursing Organizations Influencing Nursing Education

Saudi Arabia

In the field of nursing education, the MOH “is responsible for operating and monitoring health systems in Saudi Arabia” (Al-Hashem, 2016). It develops new legislation and policies, controls and investigates health care, and provides training of health care professionals. At present, administrative responsibility for nursing schools shifted to the Ministry of Education. Its General Administration of Nursing in cooperation with the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties is responsible for organization and regulation of nursing education in the country. Moreover, such organizations as the Medical Services of Army Forces or the Prince Sultan Cardiac Centre provide nursing education programs (Almalki et al., 2011).


The Ministry of health of China is the governmental organization responsible for nursing education. The MOH treats education as a tool to increase the qualification of nurses. The quality of education is controlled by the Ministry of Education which provides some Higher Education Quality projects. In nursing, such projects include “nursing competence training models, nursing demonstration laboratory centres and nursing specialty development” which are funded by the MOH (Wong & Zhao, 2012, p. 41). Another organization that supports nursing education is the Chinese Nursing Association that developed from the Chinese Nursing Organizations founded in 1909 (Chinese Nursing Association, n.d.). Its major role is the promotion of Chinese nursing including education.

Comparison of countries

The similarity in the aspect of organizations involved in nursing education is the participation of the government. Thus, the MOH in both countries provide support for nursing education and controls education programs. The major difference is that China has the Nursing Association, which regulates nursing practice and influences education promoting its quality.

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Current System of Nursing Education

Saudi Arabia

A specific feature of nursing education in Saudi Arabia is gender segregation. On the whole, it is governed by the MOHE. There is a university level College of Nursing at King Saud University established in 1976. It provides Bachelor of Nursing degree program (Almaki et al., 2011). There are some other colleges at universities providing a Bachelor’s degree, but they are aimed at students with high level of school preparation.

There is also nursing education at diploma level provided by the Prince Sultan Cardiac Centre and the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre (Almaki et al., 2011). The program for Master of Science in Nursing began only in 1987 and a PhD program was established in 1994. The combination of nursing education programs is not typical of Saudi Arabia. At present, many Saudi students study abroad at the institutions of different levels to get nursing education.


In China, there is a variety of nursing programs suggested by different types of educational institutes. Thus, there are “comprehensive universities, independent medical universities or colleges, vocational technical colleges, secondary health schools, and secondary vocational schools” (You, Ke, Zheng, & Wan, 2015, p. 312). Moreover, there are diploma programs in cooperation with hospitals. Nursing education is provided on different levels. Thus, there are university diploma and baccalaureate levels as well as Master in Nursing and PhD nursing programs (Wong & Zhao, 2012). There is no information concerning the combination of nursing education programs.

Comparison of countries

The current system of nursing education in China and Saudi Arabia are similar. They both have graduate and post-graduate levels in nursing education. Another similarity is that both countries have nursing institutes at hospitals. A difference is probably in the greater variety of educational institutions preparing nurses in China than in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, there is no gender segregation in Chinese education.

Post-Graduate (Masters) Education

Saudi Arabia

There are post-graduate nursing programs in Saudi Arabia. For example, Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Damman suggests such postgraduate programs as Master in Clinical Nursing Science and Higher Diploma in Midwifery (2017). Moreover, there are online nurse practitioner Masters programs that can help registered nurses to improve their skills.


As of 2007, there were 58 Master in Nursing programs in China (Wong & Zhao, 2012). A year later, educational institutions suggested 10 PhD nursing programs. Students who select post-graduate programs, have to pass the National Entrance Examination and then select the detection for their research. Moreover, Master in Nursing programs in China are clinically-focused.

Comparison of countries

Both countries pay attention to the post-graduate nursing education because it provides opportunities for the research and prepares more qualified professionals. China as well as Saudi Arabia take efforts to improve post-graduate nursing education through the variety of programs. However, China suggest more opportunities to choose probably due to its bigger size.

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On the whole, nursing education in Saudi Arabia and China have much in common. The Ministry of Health is an active participant of the nursing education. In both countries, it influences the direction of education. The biggest surprise in nursing education is that Saudi Arabia still practices gender segregation. Another surprising fact is the aspect of international nursing education. Thus, Saudi Arabia has active collaboration with Great Britain and Australia while Chinese students prefer the Unites States to study nursing.

Generally speaking, the current educational systems of Saudi Arabia and China are similar to that of the United States. All those systems of education have graduate and post-graduate programs including baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral. This division empowers continuous nursing education and provides the countries with professional nurses.


Alboliteeh, M. (2015). Choosing to become a nurse in Saudi Arabia and lived experience of new graduates: A mixed methods study

Al-Hashem, A. (2016). Health education in Saudi Arabia: Historical overview. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 16(3), e286-292. Web.

Almalki, M., FitzGerald, G., Clark, M. (2011). The nursing profession in Saudi Arabia: An overview. International Nursing Review, 58, 304-311. Web.

Chinese Nursing Association. (n.d.). About CNA. Web.

Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University. (2017). Programs

Wong, F.Y., & Zhao, Y. (2012). Nursing education in China: Past, present, and future. Journal of Nursing Management, 20, 38-44.

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You, L., Ke, Y., Zheng, J., & Wan, L. (2015). The development and issues of nursing education in China: A national data analysis. Nurse Education Today, 35(2), 310-314.

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