Society's attitude deters Saudi nurses |
Arab News - 16 July, 2012
Despite the status of being a noble humanitarian and caring profession, nursing continues to remain a hard nut to crack as far as Saudi society is concerned.
Many Saudis still have reservations in taking up the profession. In this scenario, some senior women officials connected with nursing underlined the need for initiating serious efforts to change society's outlook toward this profession.
According to the latest statistics, nearly half of Saudi men and women who took up nursing as a profession ultimately abandoned the job. At present, there are more than 120,000 job opportunities in nursing in both public and private sectors in the Kingdom. Saudis represent nearly one-fourth of the nursing staff in the Kingdom.
According to the figures released in 2010, there are 20,747 Saudi men and women working as nurses while the number of foreigners exceeds 81,000. There are only about 400 Saudis in the private sector, which is dominated overwhelmingly by expatriates with their number exceeding 40,000, a local Arabic daily reported Friday.
Even though the Ministry of Health and other agencies are doing their best to create a positive social outlook toward this profession and make it attractive by a series of steps such as reducing work hours and sparing women from working night shifts, it has not helped remove the apathy people have about the profession. It has been pointed out that nursing jobs have become a major factor behind rising cases of divorce, family breakups and even spinsterhood, although there is no evidence to support that argument.
Several Saudi women nurses pointed out that they were fighting against many odds to continue in this profession in order to earn their livelihood.
Samiya Al-Ameeri said she took up this job because of the humanitarian mission it entails. “However, it was soon revealed to me that many Saudi women dislike this job because of a number of factors such as long work hours, night shift, absence of facility to take care of their kids, in addition to lack of experience, lack of proficiency in the English language and inadequate training facilities,” she said.
Saad Al-Salemy, a senior nurse, said she had to fight hard to convince her family members and to secure their permission to join a nursing training course. “I sought the support of my mother and other family members to get permission from my father to join the training course. When I completed the training course, father objected vehemently against my taking up the job, and hence I had to exert all efforts to convince him to take a favorable decision,” she said. “At last I requested him to come with me and watch what a humanitarian service I was rendering to those suffering from various diseases. After watching me for a whole day, he was happy and readily gave his consent.”
Lulu, another Saudi nurse, said Saudi women were facing myriad problems from the moment they decide to join a nursing course. “We have to confront problems even to get permission from parents and family members to take up the job. The problems persist while doing the course and after graduation,” she said.
Sa’ad, who has been serving as a nurse for eight years, said she is now regretting choosing her field. She is still a spinster for which she sees her profession as the major cause. “I have been facing long odds since joining the service mainly because of the social stigma in which there has not been any noticeable change until now. I faced strong objection from my family against taking up this job; not to mention the attitude of other members of society,” she said while noting that her relatives blamed her job for her not getting married.
Ghasoun Ibrahim, said that hospital authorities and doctors show discrimination in their behavior toward Saudi nurses. “This is not because of our poor performance but because of our unwillingness to do extra jobs such as preparing tea and coffee for our superiors unlike foreigners,” she said, adding that Saudi nurses are getting neither attractive salary nor incentives.
Sabah Abu Zinada, chairperson of the International Conference for Nursing Laws, said the negative and unfair attitude of society as well as discouragement and lack of support from family members are the major causes for the phenomenon.
Taqwa Omar, head of the Scientific Council for Nursing at Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, said that long work hours and night shift are among the reasons for women abandoning nursing. “It is high time we make serious efforts to change the negative social outlook toward this profession, and this is the collective responsibility of all the agencies concerned, such as civil society organizations, universities, authorities and the media,” she said.
Muneera Al-Osaimi, assistant undersecretary for subordinate medical services at the ministry, pinned great hope on Saudi women’s growing role in the nursing sector. She said she did not have any bitter experience during her long years of service in this vital social sector. According to Al-Osaimi, the undesirable social outlook toward this profession has been witnessing tremendous positive changes and that would help bring this profession out of its present phase of "marginalization." She hoped that more and more young Saudi men and women would come forward to take up this job by taking advantage of the boom being witnessed in the Kingdom’s health sector.