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1 in 3 Saudis rejects nursing profession for women

Saudi society still looks down upon women opting for the nursing profession.

Source : Arab news / 07 Feb 2014

The nursing profession for women is still frowned upon by almost a third of Saudi families because of customs and traditions.

This attitude is negatively impacting the majority of families who accept the profession.

Taqwa Yusuf, dean of the College of Nursing at King Saud University for Health Sciences at the National Guard in Jeddah, acknowledged that a small percentage of female nursing students gave up studying nursing due to family and community pressures.

Speaking at a press conference on the eve of an upcoming international conference on nursing in Jeddah, Yusuf said that many change professions after completing their studies.

Nursing, she said, is a costly discipline that the government spends huge amounts on, being a four-year course with a year’s worth of training. Changing professions would mean that state expenditure on this vocational course has gone to waste, she said.

Yusuf said that many nurses at National Guard hospitals have transferred to Ministry of Health hospitals owing to low wages, strict attendance and long working hours.

Nevertheless, the number of Saudi female students studying nursing has drastically increased since 2001, said Sabah Abu Zinada, assistant director of the nursing department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center.

“Yet figures mean nothing since Saudi nurses are mostly found in major cities such as Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. We face a shortage of female nursing staff in other smaller cities because their culture is against it,” she said.

“Families don’t allow their daughters to work as nurses because the job calls for long working hours, interacting with male patients and working night shifts at the hospital,” she said.

What has proved to be an even bigger challenge than societal perception, however, is getting qualified.

“Nursing departments at most universities and colleges are underfunded. The nursing major is usually subsumed under medical or medical sciences majors, which receive the lion’s share of the budget,” said Abu Zinada.

“The nursing profession is skills-based, which means students must spend a lot of time working at clinical laboratories and out in the field. Training programs are not available at most universities and colleges. What you end up with is a bunch of under-qualified nursing graduates,” she said.

After graduating, nurses enter into the real world, where they have to work up to 12 hours a day and stay up all night at the hospital. “This kind of pressure is not welcomed in our society and women are not used to sleeping outside their homes. Doctors, by contrast, get to go home and even do their jobs over the phone,” said Abu Zinada.

“Societal pressure on working women prevails and women are routinely judged by their profession. This has prompted many nurses to switch to administrative roles within the hospital,” she added.

The conference, which will kick off on Feb. 11, will bring together 45 speakers and experts from countries including the United States, South Africa, Sweden, Egypt, Turkey and Malaysia.

The conference will focus on clinical education for nursing, identifying creative strategies for development and evaluating nursing education.

 

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