UAE: More male nurses entering healthcare industry, despite challenges

Local healthcare groups report that they have noticed a steady increase in the number of male nurses

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sat 7 Jan 2023, 8:43 PM

An increasing number of male nurses entering the healthcare industry in the UAE has added diversity and more value to the medical system, according to experts.

“I have personally experienced the benefits of male nurses in several areas of the hospital,” said Justina Nancy Mendonca, group chief nursing officer at Thumbay health care division. “They add more diversity and bring a different skill set to the existing medical system.”

Local healthcare groups report that they have noticed a steady increase in the number of male nurses in the industry. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, Burjeel Holdings is one that has seen more male nurses in the recent years.

“We have around 35 per cent male nurses,” said Rani Elsa Oommen, chief nursing officer, Burjeel Holdings. “We also have more male nurses than female nurses in some of our facilities in the industrial areas. If you compare the situation to around 30 years ago, less than 10 per cent of the nursing students were men. A few years ago, in the UAE, there were no male nurses who were Emiratis. Today, there are Emirati male nurses in addition to female nurses from the country.”

Sarah Ilyas
Sarah Ilyas

Sarah Ilyas, chief nursing officer at the Dubai-based Aster Hospitals and Clinics, said that the gender gap between male and female nurses will narrow down. “The ratio of male to female nurses is 1:6 at Aster Hospitals,” she said. “We expect this gap to narrow in the coming years. We have been seeing more men join the nursing workforce in the last decade.”

Always an asset

According to Justina, the presence of male nurses is especially helpful in certain departments in the hospital. “In areas like emergency rooms, operation theatres, ICU and dialysis units, male nurses do very well and are sometimes even preferred,” she said. “There are a number of reasons for this. For example, in emergency rooms and operation theatres, there is the requirement of transferring patients from beds to stretcher and so on. Male nurses are able to support female nurses very well in such cases.”

Rani also supported this. “Male nurses are also in demand because of the requirement to cater to male patients, area of the work, and physical requirements,” she said.

Tinu Oommen
Tinu Oommen

Tinu Oommen, senior registered nurse at the NMC Royal Hospital in Sharjah, said he has seen many male nurses handle delicate situations very well. “I have seen that in emergency rooms, male nurses do not panic and are ready to face challenging situations. That is one of the reasons why we can see at least one male nurse in any critical care areas.”

Nursing as a way of service

For Jobish Gopinathan, head nurse at Aster Hospital in Mankhool, it was the thought of serving people that pushed him to be a nurse. “When we support our patients in their recovery journey, I believe they will say a silent prayer for us,” he said. “So, nursing is a profession that I chose out of passion, and it gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment in my life.

Jobish Gopinathan
Jobish Gopinathan

A severe health setback during Covid-19 did not deter him. “Being in the emergency department, we were the first point of contact for patients,” he said. “Very soon, I tested positive. I had severe pneumonia and was admitted to the ICU in an unconscious state for over three weeks. The doctors and the team did their best to bring me back to life. I had severe post-Covid complications. But once I was back on my feet, I did not stay back, fearing reinfection. I went back on duty in the emergency department and attended to every patient who came to us.”

For Lebanese national Rami Atef Amhaz, the IP manager at Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah, it was an illness close to home that set him on the path of healthcare. “In our family, there were no doctors or nurses, and my grandfather was sick,” he said. “So, I decided more than 20 years ago to study nursing to save lives. In fact, my father encouraged me to study nursing.”

Rami Atef Amhaz
Rami Atef Amhaz

He said the profession has taught him a lot. “Due to my experience as a nurse, I have learnt many valuable skills. Today, I can confidently handle emotional or difficult patients because of my experience and communication skills.”

Challenges

The biggest challenge in this field is patients’ attitude towards male nurses. “Patients usually ask for female nurses,” admitted Justina. “It is mostly older male patients who prefer to have male nurses.”

Shazia Amin
Shazia Amin

Shazia Amin, director, nursing at NMC Royal Hospital Sharjah, said there needs to be more awareness about the role of male nurses. “Mixed feelings continue to persist about services provided by male nurses,” she said. “Once you see a nurse in action giving you excellent care, that’s when the gender disappears. I strongly feel that public awareness will help to promote acceptance of gender diversity in the nursing profession.”


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