A nurse looks after newly born Maha Mohammad (Jordanian) that weighed in at 3.32kg’s when she was born at Sheikh Khalifa General Hospital in Umm Al Quwain on the 10th of March. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Jen Bell. Section: Northern Coverage
ABU DHABI // A shortage of nurses and midwives persists despite a push to make the profession more attractive.
The World Health Organisation’s 2015 World Statistics Report found the UAE lagging behind with 31 nursing and midwifery personnel for every 100,000 population. This compares with 88 per 100,000 in the UK, 114 in Germany and 173 in Switzerland.
In the GCC neighbours, Kuwait has 45 per 100,000, Saudi Arabia has 48, Oman 53 and Qatar 118. Only Bahrain has fewer, with 23.
There is a lack of interest in nursing and midwifery in this country because of outdated views of the career, said Noreen Healy, director of nursing and midwifery at Al Ain Cromwell Hospital. “People do not really understand what nurses and midwives do,” she said. “Culturally, in this part of the world, nurses of old were seen to be people who served and who, sadly, in some cases, were recognised as maids.
“Yet nursing and midwifery have grown so much that we are independent clinical practitioners and actually we are working at a consultant level and are having a lot to say in how healthcare is provided.”
Nurses often make the difference between life and death, said Ms Healey.
“Every day in the world 800 women die as a result of not having skilled birthing attendants,” she said. “Having a skilled midwife at birth can really make the difference in having a healthy mother and baby.”
Despite the importance it plays in frontline healthcare, midwifery is still a profession chosen by by very few Emiratis.
Those who do, often leapfrog straight into a senior management position when they qualify rather than a hands-on role because of antisocial working hours, said Ms Healey.
Poor pay in the profession is also a problem, she said.
“There are huge challenges because healthcare provisions are becoming more complex – people are living longer but their needs are a lot more, but there is no money to pay people. It has to be tackled globally.”
Soumya Jacob, head of nursing at LLH Hospital, blamed a reliance on a transient expatriate workforce for the shortage in addition to limited options for promotion and growth.
“Under-recognition of extended and expanded roles of nurses and scope of practice limitations are also factors that contribute to nurses fetching greener pastures,” said Ms Jacob. “More people can be attracted to the profession by offering a promising career development and competitive wages.”
Gloria Murison, hospital administrator at Brightpoint Royal Women’s Hospital, said “We are totally reliant on overseas recruitment to fulfill our requirements,” she said. “Nurses no longer want to be at the bedside, either, because they aspire to be in managerial positions where they don’t have to work such long hours and do night shifts.”
“Nurses also feel that they are not remunerated sufficiently for the amount of effort they put into their work, especially since they sometimes work in very high-risk conditions.”
People should be educated that nursing is still a scarce skill that is in great demand worldwide, which gives those who choose it job security as well as great opportunities to travel around the world to fill vacancies, she said.
The UAE is making positive changes though, said Ms Healey.
The UAE Nursing and Midwifery Council was established in 2010 to oversee the licensing and regulation of nursing, alleviate some of the problems affecting the profession and strengthen the education of nurses and midwives.