Nurse in the Middle East: Myths and Misconceptions
Filipino Nurse Blends in the Arab World
Ten years ago, majority of Filipino nurses would venture on countries like America, Canada, and UK for greener Pasteur. Aside from a satisfying paycheck, those places are more appealing in terms of starting a family compared to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Qatar. But as the years go by, the bar was raised for those Filipino nurses who would like to render services on the English countries. There were unending requirements and tons of papers needed, not to mention the series of exams that will measure your conceptual capabilities and ability to speak their native language. Bottom line is you have to invest time, effort, and a lot of money to become an RN in the US, Canada, or UK. But I am sure it’s worth it in the end.
After I graduated 7 years ago, I noticed that the trend has changed. More nurses are grabbing the opportunities from hospitals and polyclinics in the Middle East. Back then, I’m still glued in the idea of practicing my profession in a country where I can play with snow after my shift. Plus, I am also scared for my safety since there are plenty of negative impressions in Middle Eastern countries.
However, time is running out. The salary of nurses in the Philippines will honestly lead me nowhere and pursuing my dream of becoming a USRN or CRNE was not financially feasible at that time. So this is it, should I exchange snow for sand?
Adapting to Islamic Customs and Hospital Culture
The PDOS (Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar) will give you essential briefing and help you set expectations on what to look forward to in the country of your destination. Well I think reading first hand experiences compared to just listening to the speaker during the seminar will guide you more in preparing for your journey.
Upon Arrival at the King Fahad Airport in Dammam, foreigners and first timers like me will undergo a thorough identification and security check. This procedure usually takes a lot of time. Since you're now within the jurisdiction of a strict Islamic country, you should start minding your manners such as avoid mingling with the opposite sex unless you are related to each other, refrain from smiling or making direct eye contact to the opposite sex, and act with modesty.
The aforementioned gestures were also applied in the hospital. Given the conservative practices, the hiring of male nurses isn't as popular as the female nurses. Female nurses can handle patients of both genders, while male nurses are strictly for male patients. On the other hand, the usual nursing routines are pretty much the same in the Philippines. You just need to be familiar on their culture as a respect and in order to avoid offending them unintentionally.
My previous hospital, Al Khafji National Hospital, and certainly majority of healthcare institutions in Saudi Arabia are surprisingly competitive in meeting the competencies of different accrediting organizations like CBAHI and JCI. Staff nurses are sent to training to obtain BLS, ACLS, and PALS certifications. The hospital itself has its own education committee that conducts weekly seminars, workshops, and evaluations. Indeed, there are unending opportunities for learning and development.
Having an initiative to learn the basic Arabic language is a plus in building rapport among your patients and colleagues. The essential greeting you need to practice is the standard salutation in the Nation of Islam which is "as-salamu alaykum" and "wa-alaykum-salam" which translates to peace be upon you.
The best thing in Saudi Arabia is you can walk freely in the streets without worrying about "riding in tandems", kidnapper, pick-pockets, etc. - crimes which are prominent in my home country. In fact, you can use your enormous Samsung Galaxy or Iphone6 plus in public without worrying that someone might snatch it from your hands. Stealing is a grave offense in this country and it's probably because everyone around you has a high end phone already.
I can say that Saudi Arabia is a haven for shopaholics because clothes, gadgets, shoes, etc are all tax free! They come at a very affordable price and even much lower during Ramadan and Haj seasons. Speaking of, you should be familiar with their practices during Ramadan. It's about a month long celebration where Muslims are fasting the entire day. As a sign of respect, you should not eat or drink in public during fasting hours.
They may look intimidating at first because of their stature and loud voice, but the Arabs are the most generous and kindest people I've met. I remember our receptionist was always bringing baked goodies and other savory dishes at work. She even gave me a pair of earrings on my last day at work. They are sincere, straightforward, and passionate with their culture.
Final Words to Sunny and Sandy Saudi
Typically, Filipino nurses prefer the idea of working in UK, Australia, or Canada. However, many failed to accomplish the first requirement which is the IELTS. With the scarce employment opportunities here in our country, maybe it's time to open our minds in grabbing job offers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and other Middle Eastern Country. It's definitely a good stepping stone in achieving professional growth and earning money for your family. In fact, many nurses prefer to pursue their career in the Middle East because of competitive compensations such as free housing, tax free commodities, yearly vacation with airfare provided by the company, and many more.