UAE witnesses surge in nursing course enrolments post-pandemic

Medical tourism, golden visa, attractive remuneration encourages growing interest in nursing careers


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Tue 14 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 15 May 2024, 5:34 PM

There has been a notable rise in student enrolments in nursing courses in the UAE after the pandemic.

This is also spurred by extensive awareness campaigns, the country’s push for medical tourism, golden visas for nurses, world-class training and an attractive pay package along with additional benefits.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Mohamad Fakih, Chief Nursing Officer, Fakeeh University Hospital Dubai, said: “Particularly, after Covid-19 there has been an increase in the number of student admissions to nursing professions because of the huge campaign that has happened during the pandemic. There has been a lot of support from the UAE government towards the nursing profession, starting from the golden visa to establishing universities and nursing schools.”

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He explained that universities over the last couple of years have increased the number of admissions of UAE nationals and residents to the nursing profession.

Mohamad Fakih. Photo: Supplied
Mohamad Fakih. Photo: Supplied

Fakih emphasised that as the UAE is widely regarded as one of the premier healthcare destinations in the region, nurses receive top-notch training here.

“They receive the best training and work in hospitals that are accredited by international organisations. Individuals are exposed to a high level of technology and huge resources are invested in training."

"The UAE is one of the countries in the Gulf areas that provides higher education for nurses to complete their Master’s and PhDs. There are at least four good universities that have a variety of advanced education courses for nurses in the UAE,” he added.

More Emiratis join nursing profession

Experts in the field explained that with the country becoming a centre for medical tourism, there is a pressing need for a skilled healthcare workforce, including nurses.

Dr Selva Titus Chacko, Dean, College of Nursing at the Gulf Medical University, said: “Over the past three years, there has been a significant surge in nursing admissions in the UAE, with a remarkable 200 per cent increase in the number of students choosing to pursue a career in nursing. This up-tick encompasses both Emiratis and expatriates.”

Dr Selva Titus Chacko. Photo: Supplied
Dr Selva Titus Chacko. Photo: Supplied

The national healthcare strategy, particularly in light of the UAE's 50th anniversary in 2021, prioritises healthcare as a key pillar for the nation's future development.

“This strategic vision has spurred efforts from the ‘UAE National Strategy for Nursing / Midwifery: A Road map to 2026’, to enhance nursing education and training, resulting in increased admissions to meet future workforce demands," Chacko said.

"The recent development of a ‘UAE National Competency and Professional Practice Framework for Undergraduate Nursing Programs’ has provided a structured pathway for nursing education and professional development,” she added.

Among others, universities like Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), University of Sharjah, University of Ras Al Khaimah, Gulf Medical University (GMU) and Fakeeh University Hospital offer nursing courses.

Fakih said, “Fakeeh University is now aspiring to open the first university where students would graduate in nursing in Dubai. Over the next few years, we are heading towards this."

"Hence, we are also now considered a centre for training for nurses and receive nursing students and graduates from different universities all over the UAE. We train them on our standards of practice at the hospital, technology, policies, procedures, and protocols," he added.

However, he said that there continues to be a significant shortage of nurses worldwide and in the UAE due to various factors.

Expanding role of nurses

Traditionally, nurses were primarily associated with hospitals, but over the past decade, they have made noteworthy contributions to the overall well-being of populations.

Fakih said: “The role of nurses traditionally has been only in hospitals. However, nurses, especially over the past decade, have made significant contributions to the general well-being of populations, especially when you talk about community services, home healthcare services, vaccination centres, schools, and among corporates as well. Now nurses are really across the span of healthcare, and in community settings.”

Shedding light on the reasons as to why sometimes women and even men steer away from the profession, he added: “We have seen a migration of nurses or a drop out of nurses from the profession, among both males and females."

"The responsibilities associated with bearing and raising children can indeed add a significant amount to a woman's plate. However, what happens at work really affects both men and women. We have seen a lot of dropouts from the nursing profession or people shifting careers,” said Fakih.

However, he highlighted that there has been a significant evolution of the nursing profession in the UAE.

“For example, a lot of nurses get into pharmaceutical companies, or they go into medical equipment companies. They also get into training, education, and leadership roles. Many who leave the bedside get into these areas.”

Experts pointed out there has been a notable shift within the Emirati community towards recognising the value of education and training in health professions.

“Emiratis are increasingly realizing the potential for career growth and advancement within the healthcare industry, prompting more individuals to pursue nursing and other health-related careers,” said Chacko.

Return to profession after a hiatus

Meanwhile, Bindu Baby, Assistant Chief Nursing Officer, Thumbay University Hospital who has over two decades of experience in this profession, explained why she returned after a hiatus.

Bindu Baby. Photo: Supplied
Bindu Baby. Photo: Supplied

Starting her journey as a nurse over two decades ago was a mix of nerves, excitement and pride.

“Personal challenges on the home front led to a brief career break, during which the exceptional consideration of Dr Thumbay Moideen, Founder President, urged me to reconsider my decision. Although circumstances prevented immediate return, the organisation later welcomed me back with open arms, appointing me as a Nursing Supervisor — it was a memorable moment stepping back into GMC adorned in a new uniform,” Baby said.

She reiterated that each day was a learning opportunity, refining her supervisory skills and acknowledging that there is always more to learn.

“The culmination of this growth occurred in 2018 when I was appointed as Assistant Chief Nursing Officer, a challenging yet joyous responsibility,” she added.


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