UAE: Emirati nurse recounts long career in healthcare sector

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Dubai - Dr Safa Azaat Al Mustafa began working in 1992


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

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Published: Fri 27 Aug 2021, 2:42 PM

It was in 1992 when Dr Safa Azaat Al Mustafa started her career in the healthcare sector as a nurse.

At that time, she was among the few Emiratis to build a career in nursing, which meant a lot of opportunities and challenges on the perception front.

"I didn't know much about the profession, but it was my father who encouraged me to pursue it. He knew that I enjoyed memorising information, had a good understanding of math, and thought like an engineer. Moreover, I am interested in the physical and mental well-being of people and am often seen as a caring person. My father wanted to align these qualities with a suitable profession and that's when he suggested I pursue nursing," says Al Mustafa who has since climbed the corporate ladder swiftly and now works as Chief Nursing Officer — Admin at SKMC.

Al Mustafa initially faced challenges as an Emirati. The nursing profession hadn't matured at that time and saw the participation of only a few nationalities. The community and patients, therefore, did not welcome an Emirati nurse. But with her hard work and genuine concern for patients, she earned the love and respect of all.

During the pandemic, she led the nursing division team to one of the prestigious international nursing accreditations from the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC).

"In 2021, we received the official announcement & accreditation as the 'First Pathway to Excellence' designation as the first health care facility in the country as well as in the region to achieve such prestigious accreditation," she said in an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, in partnership with Frontline Heroes Office.

"I am also the founder of the first nursing and allied health award for SEHA 'IHSAN award'. It is the first nursing award in Abu Dhabi."

Al Mustafa has also led a program to develop and upskill Emirati nurses and allied health professionals through the Emirati Nursing and Allied Health Committee within SKMC. She is also is responsible for other SEHA HCF nurses' career paths and succession planning.

Al Mustafa believes in continuous learning and has been investing her time and efforts in earning various certifications and degrees since the beginning of her career.

"I worked as a registered nurse (RN) in surgical units for several years and completed my bachelor's in nursing; it took me six years to start at the managerial level, specialise in different areas and gained experience and moved to higher leadership nursing position. In 2004, I became an ADON. A few years later, I moved on to become Deputy CNO while I was pursuing a master's degree in health care management from USA in 2010," adds Al Mustafa.

She joined a program at Abu Dhabi University and completed her doctoral degree in Business Administration. This degree, combined with years of experience, made it easier for her to lead the largest division in the hospital as the first Emirati Chief Nurse Officer in one of the largest hospitals in the UAE — Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

"Those years gave me opportunities to grow more, get broader experience and be more confident. These factors built the trust of my CEO, and I have been assigned the role of an acting CEO during her absence."

Talking about her career path, Al Mustafa says it has been quite a challenging journey to be a nurse, but with the support of family, friends, co-workers, and love of her patients, she has been able to achieve success at various levels.

Having spent decades in various challenging roles as the administrative and clinical heads of nursing staff, Al Mustafa thinks that leaders who are out of balance often start to slack.

"To achieve life-work-balance, I assign specific time for my family, follow up with my sons' school progress and be there for them as a mother. It is sometimes hard, but I try to find some time for walking and non-work activities like a movie night with my family. I visit my relatives and friends. I am so aware that if I do not take care of myself, I will not be able to progress in my career and better serve my patients and my country."

Al Mustafa credits her father and husband for their support and motivation. She is ambitious and has been able to balance her personal life with her job by prioritising her day and setting timelines and targets. "My husband and I completed our study to doctorate level together we are together we have been the role model for my two sons, and that is why we have shining star boys that are successful in their universities."

Her advice to young girls and women

"I believe that 'when a woman rises, the world rises' and I put those words into action every day. My advice to women and girls is to "never give up your dream, never let anyone tell you that you cannot do it, you can. Fight for your dream and pursue it regardless of challenges you may face. You can be a leader and influencer in your community and your country, if you build yourself correctly," Al Mustafa advises.

"Also, and equally important, take care of yourself and your family. You will not be able to be effective in your community if you do not take good care of yourself and still build your family."


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