China had 1.54 million nurses as of the end of last year, up 240,000 from 2005, a senior health official said in Beijing on Monday.
Ma Xiaowei, vice health minister, told a tele-conference that last year alone, 120,000 more nurses joined the workforce, the biggest increase ever.
He said nurses accounted for 34 percent of China's medical workers.
The quality of the nursing workforce was also being lifted, with 57.5 percent of those at 696 major hospitals nationwide having received junior college education or above, Ma quoted a survey as saying.
However, the survey also found nurses faced many problems including a heavy workload and lack of protection of their rights, he said.
In the surveyed hospitals, one nurse often cared for 10-14 patients and some cared for more than 30 patients, he said.
"The shortage of nurses has increased their workload and led to below-standard service for patients," he said.
Ma said a new regulation on nurses that took effect on Monday would better protect their rights as to salary and benefits.
(Xinhua News Agency May 13, 2008)