Emirati workforce can help plug nursing shortfall, conference hears

Local training and incentives can encourage more people into the workforce

As health services around the world face staffing shortages, Emiratis are being encouraged to start training for roles in the UAE. PA Wire
Powered by automated translation

Home-grown nurses can ease the burden on hospitals across the country that are struggling to keep pace with a global recruitment crisis, the Abu Dhabi Global Healthcare Week has heard.

Recruiters speaking at the event said a number of factors were driving staff away from western care systems such as the UK’s NHS, but UAE hospitals were also facing up to staff shortages.

A hiring drive to help plug gaps in the workforce is under way, with more Emiratis being encouraged to start training for health care roles.

Former NHS nurse Paula Gallant, who is now senior vice president of asset management at M42 in Abu Dhabi, said hospitals must keep pace with change.

As a country, we are responding to this issue and working to inspire the next generation of the Emirati workforce
Paula Gallant, former NHS nurse

“The healthcare ecosystem is changing rapidly and everything is moving, expanding, and medicine itself has evolved hugely with more complex procedures,” she said.

“People are also living longer, which means our patient base is bigger so we have more people that we need to care for.

“Recruitment is still very difficult even here (in the UAE).

“It would be really easy to attract a workforce from across the globe for the quality of life and the UAE weather, but we face exactly the same challenges as elsewhere.

“So you need to be much more deliberate in the way you're recruiting, and the people you need, according to the specificity of specialisms you're trying to bring in.”

Global shortage

The World Health Organisation estimates there will be a shortfall of 10 million health workers by 2030, with one in five nurses considering leaving the profession in the UK, Canada, the US, France and Belgium.

In the UAE, multiple programmes have been launched to address the recruitment crisis.

“When people think about the healthcare process and recruitment, people automatically think doctors and nurses – it is far bigger than that,” said Ms Gallant.

“There is a whole supporting network – without these guys, doctors and nurses can't do their jobs.

“As a country, we are responding to this issue and working to inspire the next generation of the Emirati workforce here, through universities, colleges and our own training programmes.”

Mentorship programmes and leadership development opportunities are a key aspect of the UAE National Strategy for Nursing and Midwifery, strengthening the nursing workforce and ensuring high-quality patient care.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) offers two nursing master's programmes, encouraging nurses to pursue specialised, advanced qualifications.

It aims to ensure nurses are competent and confident to deliver complex hospital and community-based healthcare.

An MSc in cardiovascular nursing provides students with the knowledge, clinical expertise and technical skills needed to manage and care for patients with those diseases.

Training programmes

A similar qualification in paediatric nursing offers theoretical knowledge and practical skills for caring for children with acute and chronic conditions.

“At Dubai Health, we are committed to nurturing and strengthening our nursing community here in the UAE,” said Dr Abeer AlBlooshi, director of nursing at Dubai Health, the emirate’s integrated academic health system.

“Working within an integrated academic health system also opens up new avenues for learning and development.

“As a key component of Dubai Health's discovery mission, nurses have the opportunity to participate in research projects alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals.

“This collaborative environment enables both nurses and physicians to play a pivotal role in advancing patient care and shaping its future.”

Elsewhere, a growing population paired with a shortage of medical training schools and fewer people wanting to enter the profession is contributing to the global shortfall.

The impact of the Covid pandemic, with frontline staff placed under huge pressure, has also been felt.

Helen Featherstone, director and global manager of UK health consultants GMCSI, said ensuring patient safety can lengthen the time it takes to recruit the right staff.

“There are a number of challenges around the migratory workforce in terms of checking skills and qualifications,” she said.

“As much as we like healthcare practitioners to be able to move freely around the world, it's just not possible to allow that.

“There are so many checks and balances that have to be done, which potentially cause delays in the migratory workforce.”

Foreign qualified healthcare practitioners or medical doctors who want to work in the UK must first pass an English exam.

They are also required to write and apply a knowledge test, and then a practical exam.

“We've been researching some of the medical doctors who left the UK who went to other organisations to try and find out why,” said Ms Featherstone, during the panel discussion at Abu Dhabi Global Healthcare Week.

“Staff are looking at the healthcare system and they're not really buying into how it is currently being run.

“Doctors mentioned burnout as a major issue.

“But of the 33 per cent who say they'd like to leave, we only see 13 per cent actually leaving.”

Abu Dhabi Global Healthcare Week – in pictures

Updated: May 16, 2024, 3:02 AM