Healthcare providers across the country have said relaxation in the experience criteria for nursing professionals would boost the sector and see young talented nurses consider a career in the UAE.
Following the ‘Unified Healthcare Professional Qualification Requirements’ document, published by the health authorities recently, registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing do not need two years of work experience post their qualification to apply for nursing licences in the UAE.
The new update was recently issued jointly by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Health Authority and the Sharjah Health Authority.
Until now, registered nurses needed a minimum of two years’ work experience after their degree to appear for licensing exams in the UAE. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said 28,195 health professionals had been licensed since the end of this year's first quarter.
Abeer Adel, the director of Licensing and Accreditation Department at MoHAP, said the department is currently working to re-engineer electronic and digital services in line with its development plan 2022-2023 to accelerate the licensing procedures of medical professions across various disciplines.
“This comes in line with the ministry's ongoing efforts to boost the level and calibre of licensing services and provide distinguished regulatory services to the health sector,” she added.
In response to the revision of rules, top private healthcare providers in the country have said the reforms bring several benefits and a few challenges to the sector.
While healthcare workers are still waiting for more clarity on the licensing reforms from respective government departments, the ‘Unified Healthcare Professional Qualification Requirements’ document is a welcome relief for private companies looking to expand their nursing workforce.
However, healthcare providers clarified that even though fresh graduates and registered nurses need not have any experience before arriving in the UAE, they must have a registration certificate from their home countries to be eligible to apply for a license in UAE. Medical professionals are scarce worldwide, especially post-pandemic, said Malvika Varma, group human resources head, Prime Healthcare Group.
She explained, “It is a welcome move by the UAE health authorities as it expands the pool of nurses and paramedics available to us for recruitment. The new reforms could increase the population of nurses and paramedics available to apply for a license to explore opportunities in the UAE.” Moreover, hospitals can hire nurses directly from campuses rather than recruitment consultants.
Rani Elsa Oommen, the chief nursing officer at Burjeel Holdings, said, “It will further boost the nursing sector by enabling healthcare providers to collaborate with top nursing schools and recruit the best talents from their pool.”
Meanwhile, Fara Siddiqi, group chief human resources officer, Aster DM Healthcare, said the move would undoubtedly see more young talented nurses considering a career in the UAE. “Earlier, young nursing talent would typically flock Westwards for opportunities. With this move, the UAE will quickly become an early talent attractor in nursing,” said Siddiqi.
A spokesperson for NMC Healthcare told Khaleej Times, “The overall turnaround in getting nurses on board will be less. Hence we will not have a shortage of nurses to fulfil the needs and demands of patients.”
“Another advantage of this would be that since the nurses are fresh out of college, there would be no unlearning of past practices, which usually takes a long time. Fresh nursing graduates would immediately be able to imbibe the work practices and clinical protocols specific to UAE Healthcare standards,” explained Varma.
Nursing professionals often move to the West for jobs after gaining relevant experience in the UAE and other GCC countries. “Nursing talent shortage is a global challenge. The pandemic has elevated the demand for healthcare workers worldwide, accentuating the global shortage,” said Siddiqii.
According to the World Health Organisation, the issues around the global migration of nurses and midwives, generally from poorer to more prosperous countries, have a profound effect on the way health systems can be organised and ultimately on the quality of patient care.
Countries like Switzerland have 17.3 nurses and midwives per 1000 inhabitants (2016) compared to 0.3 in Senegal the same year and 0.4 in Mozambique (2017).
According to an NMC spokesperson, “UAE is always be used as a stepping stone by nurses who get permanent migration to western countries like the US, Canada, UK and Ireland.”
Moreover, Varma said, “The UK has also relaxed its migration policies for nursing, causing many to travel there in search of opportunities.”
Organisations have said programmes such as the Golden visa for nurses and the relaxation in the experience criteria for nursing professionals would address the issue of nurses migrating to the West from the UAE.
The NMC spokesperson added, “We need solid mechanisms to retain this talent within our country. Thanks to authorities for granting golden visas to nurses and allied health care staff. The result of this initiative will be seen in the coming months.”
“However, the respect and interest in the healthcare system have risen many folds, which gives employers like us the ability to train and recruit fresh talent,” Siddiqii explained, adding that the new reforms would improve the overall healthcare ecosystem in the country.
Many doctors and other healthcare professionals also raised concerns about hiring inexperienced nurses. However, most organisations have an internal training system to groom recruits.
Oommen explained, “The training will equip the new nurses to enhance their practical learning. After structured training and orientation, they will be able to adopt the highest standards in the profession and offer the best patient care.”
Malvika said, “Irrespective of their years of experience, all new nurses have to undergo internal training before they are made to provide patient care.”
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