UAE nurse who ran free coaching programme for healthcare workers during Covid-19 nominated for award

The Irish expat started a mentorship initiative based on skills and interests of nurses


Nasreen Abdulla

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File photo used for illustrative purposes
File photo used for illustrative purposes

Published: Fri 14 Apr 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 14 Apr 2023, 10:34 PM

A UAE-based Irish nurse who reached out to thousands of nurses across the world with her pro bono coaching classes during the Covid-19 pandemic has been nominated for a top award.

Cathy Cribben-Pearse is the only one from the country who has been shortlisted as a finalist for the prestigious Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award 2023. She joins nine others who were chosen from more than 52,000 entries from 202 countries. The winner will be partially decided through a voting process

“This has become a bigger thing than I expected,” admitted Cathy, speaking to Khaleej Times, saying that her phone hasn’t stopped ringing with support pouring in from all quarters.

“My friend messaged that her 86-year-old grandmother in Canada figured out the voting process on her own and voted for me. I have a web developer in Ukraine. He just messaged me that 26 people from Ukraine have voted for me. It has restored my faith in humanity.”

The ten finalists will face a public voting process, followed by a final evaluation by the Grand Jury judging panel. The ceremony will take place on Friday, May 12 – International Nurses Day – with the award winner set to receive $250,000 in prize money.

Leading the way

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Cathy found herself with a lot of time after her kids were in bed. Trained as a coach during her stellar career, Cathy decided a launch an outreach programme for fellow nurses from all over the world. “I saw a desperate need for human connection,” she said.

“At the end of the day, not only were we afraid of getting sick but we didn’t know what the virus was in the initial days. People were losing their loved ones and yet nurses were rocking up every day to be frontline workers.”

First, she supported the nurses with coaching skills, compassion and lending a listening ear. But as the days passed, she began a mentorship programme that connected nurses to a mentor and mentee, based on their skills and interests. “We took care to connect people who were in different countries so that the nurses could be at ease about opening up and there was a level of confidentiality,” said Cathy.

One of the biggest successes came in the form of a nurse who was able to make a personal gain in his career. “He was burnt out and ready to quit the job when he enrolled in the programme,” she said.

“He had certain goals which he didn’t think he could achieve by being a nurse. Six months after joining our programme, he got promoted to a very senior position in a different country and was able to achieve the goals which he thought he couldn’t. It was a big win for us.”

Coming to UAE

With over 20 years of experience, Cathy arrived in the UAE in 2014 after having always dreamt of working in the country. “We have family here and we had been visiting the UAE for holidays since the 1990s,” she said. “So it was always a dream to work here. When I got offered an opportunity, I didn’t have to think twice about it.”

She moved to the UAE with her husband and two children- aged 16 months and 4 months- to join Cleveland Clinic, while it was still in its start-up phase. Under her guidance as the Director of Quality Patient Safety, Cleveland became the first hospital in the country to attain the Magnet Recognition Program- a global benchmark in nursing excellence.

Cathy says her wish to give back to society is what drives her. “I believe that I have a purpose and that purpose is about leaving a legacy,” she said.

“This isn’t about me, this is about the profession. We can modernise the face of nursing. It is a sacred profession, to be able to care for people during their most vulnerable times and I don’t take that for granted.”


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