UAE healthcare professionals must prioritise continued education

Doctors stress the importance of continuing education for healthcare professionals in the UAE.

DUBAI // The UAE must focus on training postgraduates and healthcare teachers to increase the number of Emiratis entering the field, experts say.

"When we think about medical education we have to look at the full spectrum from undergraduate to postgraduate, to the continued professional development," said Hossam Hamdy, vice chancellor of the Medical and Health Sciences Colleges at the University of Sharjah.

"The three are inter-related. We have a shortage of preparation of those who are delivering that."

Prof Hamdy was speaking on the sidelines of a medical education conference at Arab Health.

It is difficult in the UAE for professionals to continue education and work full time, other speakers said.

"It is almost impossible for nurses," said Dr Stephen Mather, medical director and head of department at Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Medical Simulation Centre in Dubai. "When we try to engage them, they tell us they can't get the time."

The result is an unbalanced system where a patient could be treated by a physician who has continued to improve his education, and a nurse whose level of expertise has experienced little change, Dr Mather said.

Improved education would also help to stabilise a healthcare system mostly made up of expatriate employees, said Hatem Al Ameri, manager of the professional licensing department at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

He suggested the problem of people avoiding careers in health care was global, but exaggerated in the UAE because of its dependence on migrant labour. As a result, there is a gap in retention of staff, competency and skills.

Dr Al Ameri said the importance of continuing medical education may have been overlooked in the past, but that had changed in recent years.