UAE: Veteran nurses discuss major challenges confronting industry

Experts highlight talent shortage due to factors such as lack of potential educators, high turnover rates, and an uneven distribution of the workforce

Ayesha Ali Ahmed Al Mahri talks to a group of colleagues. — Supplied photo

Nandini Sircar

Published: Sun 14 May 2023, 11:05 PM

A shortage of nurses across the UAE amid the country’s booming health sector is like an unsaid call for more young professionals to join the frontline of care, according to a senior Emirati nurse.

Ayesha Ali Ahmed Al Mahri, a nurse with over 25 years of service and former president of the Emirates Nursing Association, said nursing talent shortage persists due to various factors such as lack of potential educators, high turnover rates, and an uneven distribution of the workforce.

“When I started my role in leadership, my biggest task was to develop a strategy that’ll enable overcoming the shortage of nurses. It’s been an ongoing challenge. We want to retain nurses and are perpetually looking out for well-qualified and competent nurses. This is a problem that people are facing worldwide.


“The unique thing about healthcare professionals as compared to other professions is that from day one, from the time you pursue it academically it’s embedded in our minds and soul that this is a kind of a profession where you dedicate your life for others. It’s not about yourself, it’s about the patient,” said the group chief nursing officer at Burjeel Holdings.

Al Mahri started her journey as a staff nurse after finishing her nursing course in 1997 in Kuwait hospital in Sharjah. For 12 years she continued working as a bedside nurse, serving in different specialities. Then she felt that building on her knowledge was imperative.

“That’s when I went for my bachelor's degree in nursing and then for a master's degree in healthcare management. I also did another master's in health economics. Following this, I started getting into different leadership roles.”

She said identifying and encouraging specific nursing qualities would aid hospitals and healthcare systems in identifying strong nursing candidates for employment and recognising current nurses on staff who possess leadership potential.

“If you decide to take up nursing as a career, make sure that you have that passion because you are dealing with human lives. If you want to be successful in this profession, always try to upgrade your knowledge. Make sure you are abreast with what’s going on around you in the healthcare sector. One must be updated with recent certifications,” said Al Mahri.

Career of the future

Aida Dakash.

Aida Dakash has dedicated 30 years of her life to the nursing industry, where she has been committed to serving people.

“I started in Jordan in 1987 and I was an ICU Nurse then. Then I moved to Aramco in Saudi Arabia. After that I went back to Jordan and then came to the UAE in 2001 as a nurse supervisor,” said the Jordanian national who works at the Canadian specialist hospital, Dubai, as the director of nursing.

Dakash said: “There is a lot of demand for this role. People joining this sector will always be employable and monetarily also, it’s quite rewarding. It is a career of the future. But one must keep upskilling oneself with more trainings and degrees and specialise,” she added.

Elucidating on the role of nurses, she explained that nurses must learn to multi-task with timing and meticulousness being integral qualities.

“You must give medication on time, answer the call bell on time, send the patient to operating theatre (OT) on time, receive the patient from OT on time, and even do your documentation on time. They should be ready for the pressures of the job because they are almost in the middle of a battle. In case there is an issue, the nurse will be at the centre of things. Nurses should also have a high level of patience and not lose their calm or focus because one can’t afford to have medical errors. It’s a big responsibility,” said Dakash.

Be prepared for the challenges

Julie Ann Alcantara

Julie Ann Alcantara, nursing supervisor at Saudi German Hospital (SGH) Dubai, was among the first ones to join the hospital when it commenced its operations in 2012.

“I started my career in the Philippines in 2004. I never wanted to become a nurse because I was scared of blood and I wanted to do something on my own. But over the years I’ve become passionate about it, and it has certainly gained recognition as a profession. It’s a very in-demand profession that also pays well,” she said.

She highlighted that nurses have a diverse range of responsibilities, which includes providing direct patient care, managing cases, establishing nursing practice standards, creating quality assurance protocols, and overseeing complex nursing care systems.

“Anybody looking to choose this as a career option needs to be open minded, be prepared to take on challenges, learn from your seniors, and be loyal. Loyalty matters because when you stay with a hospital for a few years, you learn the skills from various people in different verticals. One must stay with a hospital for at least a few years rather than continuously switching jobs, which I view as a problem these days. To really grow, one must have the right attitude, stay and persevere,” added the Filipino expat.

Nandini Sircar

Published: Sun 14 May 2023, 11:05 PM

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