Emiratis urged to consider full-time nursing careers

Figures show only 8 per cent of nursing staff at public hospitals in the country are from the UAE

The UAE's health sector is heavily reliant on expatriate nurses. Ravindranath K / The National
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Public health officials have urged more Emiratis to consider full-time careers in nursing.

The call came as new figures revealed only 8 per cent of nursing staff at public hospitals in the country are from the UAE.

Dr Sumaya Al Bloushi, director of the Ministry of Health’s nursing department, said addressing the issue was proving a tough challenge.

She said only 336 Emirati nurses out of a total of 4,200 currently worked at public hospitals. Just 45 Emirati nurses joined existing staff last year.

“We need to increase the Emiratisation rate in the nursing profession,” she told a health conference in Dubai on Tuesday.

“A particular challenge is to motivate male Emiratis to become nurses, as only six male students are studying nursing at the moment.”

Last year, senior hospital officials said much more needed to be done to encourage greater numbers of both men and women into the nursing profession.

Currently, Emiratis make up less than 3 per cent of nursing staff at Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, a government healthcare provider.

But medical staff claimed a combination of improving hours, broadening responsibilities and increasing wages could help to drive up recruitment figures.

As part of a nationwide effort, officials said on Tuesday that the UAE was set to join an international campaign aimed at increasing nurse recruitment worldwide.

Nursing Now is a three-year initiative running until 2020 which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Dr Al Bloushi said there were just 750 nursing students across the UAE, including 260 who had been awarded scholarships by the ministry.

She said 11 Emirati nurses were due to graduate in November, and that help would be given to find them work as quickly as possible.

The Ministry of Health pays tuition, housing and transportation costs of students studying to become nurses.

A monthly bonus of Dh4,500 is also awarded to those who commit to work at public hospitals following their graduation.

Dr Al Bloushi said part of the challenge the UAE faced with nurse recruitment was ensuring students spoke sufficiently good English.

A level of fluency in the language is required to graduate, but the restriction has been blamed for high dropout rates among students.

“The lack of diplomas and bachelor’s degrees in pediatrics, maternal health and community health is another challenge,” she said.