More Emiratis in nursing will help

health professionals are urging more Emiratis to join the nursing workforce Sammy Dallal / The National
health professionals are urging more Emiratis to join the nursing workforce Sammy Dallal / The National

Most nurses in the UAE are able to give excellent care to their patients. But medical expertise is only part of their role and anecdotal reports suggest that some struggle with the cultural aspect of caring for Emirati patients. With an aging population, there is a clear and compelling need to have more Emirati nurses.

Figures revealed at last year’s Abu Dhabi Medical Congress show only three per cent of the 23,000 to 25,000 nurses in the country are Emirati. As The National reported, health professionals are calling for more efforts to address this issue, and especially to encourage more Emiratis to join the nursing workforce.

As the local population ages, there will be more people suffering from degenerative mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Studies have shown that patients, especially the elderly, tend to fare better when they are in their own environment and cared for by people from their own communities. This is just common sense: Emirati nurses have a nuanced understanding of the culture.

This point has been underscored by Dr Amer Sharif, the managing director of education at Dubai Healthcare City, when she called for “right skills and competencies” in nurses. This was crucial as the number of elderly Emiratis increases and with it the number of individuals suffering from chronic diseases.

Many countries face a similar dilemma because nursing is a particularly challenging job, demanding extra commitment, a passion for work, compassion for patients and a willingness to take on added responsibilities in the constantly evolving health care system. The problem is, as Emirati nurse Naeema Muallem pointed, that “nursing still does not get the recognition it deserves”.

One way to improve the number of Emirati nurses is to identify how to keep them in the profession. Increased funding for education and investment in professional development will help. Everyone stands to benefit, and especially Emirati patients.

Published: August 2, 2014 04:00 AM