FAHZU nurse ZHAO Xuehong receives the Florence Nightingale Medal


On May 12th, thirty-seven outstanding nurses from 22 countries have been awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal, which recognizes exceptional courage and devotion to victims of armed conflict or natural disaster. It also recognizes exemplary service or a pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education. ZHAO Xuehong, Deputy Director of the Nursing Department of the First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine (FAHZU) and Chairperson of the Disaster Nursing Professional Committee, Zhejiang Nursing Association has become the first nurse from Zhejiang University to receive the medal for being notably active in disaster situations and owning innovative initiatives to improve and promote high-quality nursing.

The Florence Nightingale Medal is an international award presented to those distinguished in nursing. It is the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve and is awarded to nurses or nursing aides for "exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict or disaster" or "exemplary services or a creative and pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education".

ZHAO Xuehong has shown courage and dedication in face of disaster situations such as SARS, the Wenchuan earthquake, H1N1 influenza, H7N9 avian influenza, the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With love, attentiveness, patience, and a sense of responsibility, she has illuminated the nursing profession with the brilliance of humanity. In response to the needs and calls of the times, she has challenged and surpassed herself, pioneering innovative thinking to reform and develop the nursing professionalism, and taking practical actions to promote high-quality development of nursing in the new era.


In 2003, during the nationwide outbreak of SARS, Zhao Xuehong played a pivotal role in establishing a fever clinic and tirelessly combating the disease day and night. Additionally, while providing care to Ebola patients, she brought China's advanced nursing and protective expertise to the forefront, actively raising funds for Ebola survivors and orphans. Through her boundless love and selfless dedication, she exemplified the compassionate nature of Chinese healthcare professionals, radiating the essence of humanitarian spirit. Recognizing her exceptional achievements, she was honored with the titles of "National Advanced Individual in Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Prevention and Control" and "Zhejiang's Most Admirable Symbol of Courage."


In 2008, the Wenchuan earthquake struck. As a member of Zhejiang province's medical rescue team sent to Wenchuan, Zhao Xuehong led the transfer team, and fearlessly ventured into the heart of the disaster zone multiple times, undeterred by the looming risk of aftershocks. Her unwavering commitment involved providing critical medical care, ensuring the safe passage, and facilitating the transfer of the injured individuals to receive necessary treatment and support.


During the outbreaks of H1N1 swine flu in 2009 and H7N9 avian flu in 2013, Zhao Xuehong was also on the front line, volunteering to take charge of nursing management in the wards and "fighting" until the end of the epidemics.


In 2015, when the devastating Ebola outbreak gripped West Africa, Zhao Xuehong courageously stepped forward, embarking on a journey to the other side of the world. She fearlessly confronted the ferocious virus, with a mortality rate ranging from 50% to 90%, and tirelessly fought to rescue countless lives from the clutches of death. Her dedicated and selfless efforts earned her the endearing title of "Chinese mother" from the African children whose lives she touched and saved.

In January 2020, as the COVID-19 broke out in multiple locations across the country, the number of infected patients rapidly increased. As the main battleground for anti-pandemic efforts in Zhejiang, the Zhijiang Campus of FAHZU received an increasing number of patients, especially critically ill ones. At that time, ZHAO was abroad, traveling with her family and friends in New Zealand, originally planning to return to China on February 5th. However, continuous news about the pandemic situation at homeland made her unable to sit still: "Critical care is my specialty, and the hospital definitely needs me now!"


It took 36 hours and three flights for ZHAO to finally return to Hangzhou on the morning of January 28. After leaving the airport, carrying her luggage and dragging her exhausted body, she immediately took a taxi to FAHZU Zhijiang Campus. In the intensive care isolation ward, she spent a total of 105 days. From January to April 2020, the campus admitted a total of 105 confirmed COVID-19 patients and undertook the treatment of 95% of the critically ill patients in Zhejiang Province, achieving the miracle of "zero deaths among critically ill patients and zero infections among medical staff."

ZHAO was also a pioneer in improving and promoting high-quality nursing. She led the nursing team to develop the "Intelligent Fever Clinic Pre-examination and Triage Information System" and the "Intelligent Infectious Disease Risk Warning Model" based on the existing system. This achieved the management of fever clinics through zoning, reducing the risk of cross-infection among patients. The project once again won the Gold Award for Hospital Management Continuous Quality Improvement Projects in Asia and China and was selected as a typical case for the "Top 10 Patient Safety Goals" by the Chinese Hospital Association in 2022.


In April 2022, when the situation in Shanghai became critical due to the pandemic, The Zhejiang Provincial Health Commission urgently formed a medical team to support the fangcang Hospital in Shanghai, with ZHAO Xuehong serving as the Director of the Nursing Department of the team. As part of the first team, she rushed to Shanghai to ensure the smooth operation of the fangcang hospital. She slept only two to three hours a day. In August of the same year, when the pandemic stormed Sanya, she volunteered again and joined the Zhejiang medical team to support critical care treatment there. This was the only national medical team supporting Sanya, and they took over the Intensive Care Medicine Department of Sanya Central Hospital. She once again served as the nursing team leader and successfully completed the mission.


For 37 years, Zhao Xuehong has never wavered in promoting the spirit of Florence Nightingale, repeatedly dedicating her life to the treatment in disaster situations. She has made outstanding contributions to the development and progress of the nursing profession with her superb nursing skills, scientific management, proactive exploration, and rigorous attitude.


"It is what we should do and our responsibility," ZHAO Xuehong always says so. She goes as far as expressing gratitude to these patients, whose trust has allowed her to witness countless unforgettable moments.