nursing…a misunderstood and maligned profession in KSA

Recently in Arab News there was a short article on nurses in KSA and how many Saudi nurses (women in this case) had to resign their posts, and maybe even the profession (though not explicitly stated it seems by the article that for some that’s how it ends). I read the comments and as always the ‘mixing’ of genders was a natural argument for some. For others it was equating nurses to medical maids.

The nursing profession has evolved during the last century into a hard-wired niche in the healthcare system. It has become in many countries much more than taking temperature, blood pressure, administering medicine, and washing of sick bodies. The nurses of today dictate surgical practice as seen by the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), they are leaders in data collection for a variety of diseases, drivers of medical guidelines and policies, and staunch mediators for the sick and ‘unhealthy’. As nurse practitioners they have acquired an autonomy not envisioned by Florence Nightingale and her contemporaries.

So why is nursing viewed as a ‘humiliating’, ‘degrading’ profession in places like Saudi Arabia? Why are women discouraged from being part of one of the most satisfying and productive professions? Is the concept of sickness so repugnant to Saudis that the best they will want to do is visit the sick and maybe in some unconscious way show off their health to the one who at the moment lacks it? Is a sick person equated with unclean, and therefore untouchable?

I have a problem with that. I also have a problem with certain people who view caring for the sick beneath them. In my nuclear family my eldest daughter is studying to be a nurse. My youngest daughter is studying very hard to be able to enter medical school to become a surgeon. In my extended Muslim family already one of my sister-in-laws is certified to take blood, administer IVs and care for a bed bound person. We applaud and encourage these professions. What could possibly be wrong with keeping a life as healthy as possible or help to bring it back to health?

Should trends like the one in KSA continue, the only healthcare providers will be foreigners. Is this what Saudis want? Do they want the responsibility of caring for their own flesh and blood only in the hands of those who are not Saudi? Is it because they don’t care for their own? Is it because they feel as long as they are healthy they don’t have to look at those who are not? Is it because as long as a foreigner does it its ok? This all seems heartless and unfair for the one who is sick in need of assistance.

I would prefer for Saudis to ‘one up’ everyone around the world and produce not only the best Saudi doctors, but also the best Saudi nurses to rival the rest of the world. Now that would be something I would write in their books a thousand times over as a best deed for Allah to review.

But in the meantime all we hear is men and women spouting idiotic excuses and so called Islamic pronouncements on mixing, on men not bearing the touch of their women after they have touched a sick person. So start with male nurses in male hospitals with male doctors. Start at the same time female hospitals with female doctors and female nurses all so good the world would flock to your doors for medical help. But then again that in itself would only hold until the first boy is born in a female hospital.

Because the Prophet SAW brought the women to the battle field to tend to the wounded and probably the dead; and because there was a time in Islamic Civilization when hospices and hospitals were their forte; and because the Qur’an reminds us life is precious – I hope Muslim countries turn towards their own and build their people up, both genders, and be proud of the work they do, honoring their dedication.

From CMIO.net : http://www.cmio.net/index.php?option=com_articles&division=cmio
And their article on Nurses as Power Users: http://epubs.democratprinting.com/publication/?i=34906

AORN: http://www.aorn.org/


8 Responses to “nursing…a misunderstood and maligned profession in KSA”

  1. April 26, 2010 at 5:26 am

    They have similar attitudes to nurses in Pakistan.

  2. April 27, 2010 at 5:23 am

    They think its demeaning work being a nurse, since it involves cleaning up bodily fluids (and much more but obviosuly they only focus on this) of the opposite sex (unless you work in single sex wards) and some consider nurses to from poor backgrounds.

  3. April 27, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I’d second that. I have even heard people say nurses are like sluts in Pakistan 😦

    In the UAE, local women never ever enroll in the nursing school. It is mostly Yemeni and Baluchi girls from very poor families who ever become nurses and then work away from home so no one in the family finds out.

    • 5 INAL
      April 27, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      A shame really! But I guess as long as someone else is doing it, the attitude won’t change in many countries. My sister in law- who is in Yemen in her mountain home has much demand- she’s the one who draws blood for all these people, and goes to hang IVs at patient’s homes because they don’t have inpatient in the village clinic. When she got certified, the eldest brother (being his usual) went on war path- until he realized she got paid by the patient blood draw, and for ever IV hung. My husband says, “what the almighty riyal does to people!”.

      We paid for her education- and only the eldest brother out of the whole tribe had anything to say…but when the money started rolling in he’s all smiles- (eyes rolling)…

      Could this be an impediment- the money they may or not make?

  4. April 28, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Not in the GCC at least, no. It is just looked down upon as a “cheapening” job 😦

  5. May 8, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I’m the only Muslim in my extended family, but my sister and one of my female cousins are in training to be nurses. My sis (who is on leave because she’s pregnant and due to give birth any day now in sha Allah. She decided she wanted to do something meaningful after our cousin suddenly lost her husband in 2007, from an asthma attack. She’d always had fairly good jobs, but decided she wanted to do something more meaningful.

    Recently I was researching some blog entries about a young lady who had severe M.E. and ultimately took her own life in the UK, and her mother had cared for her for nearly 17 years while she was bedridden. Her mother had trained as a nurse (as had the mother of one other M.E. victim, who has also since died, and the husband of another, both of whom cared for their afflicted relatives round the clock for years) and talking to a friend of the first lady, I mentioned that two of my relatives were training to be nurses. She said something to the effect that you need nurses for friends as they are the ones who can care for you in these kinds of situations.

    But even in the UK, I’m not sure nurses are held in as much esteem as they (or some of them) should be – they are not paid all that well, a lot work for agencies and there’s no security in that, and stories about uncaring nurses who leave elderly patients lying in their own excrement and leave people’s food out of reach, etc., often crop up in the papers. There is also controversy about the new nursing degrees, and people can get away with slagging off the “degree nurses” even though they do actually learn on the job just like the old nurses do. Even here, someone from a wealthy family is much less likely to go into nursing than someone from a working or middle-class family, although it’s by no means a disgraceful job in the latter group. Isn’t there a class element to it in the Gulf too? Caring jobs are done by the less well-off classes in many societies, including western society.

    • 8 INAL
      May 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm

      Salaam Yusuf, welcome- cup of shay?

      Maybe there is something to the elites theory. I guess when there is only one class of people to become nurses- then those who are not can comfortably say- someone else is doing it. Even when they are in need. It is a shame that nursing should take such a tumble even in some countries with a rich history of nursing. It needs more awareness- and definitely it requires those who are in the “teaching” of nursing to set better standards that can push the tide back where it belongs- in creating better and more honestly committed better paid professionals.

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