COVID-19 presented multiple challenges in recent times and placed an unprecedented burden on frontline workers, especially nurses. Not only did the healthcare landscape witness a surge in cases, leaving hospitals full to the brim, but it also witnessed an intense burnout among nurses who worked multiple shifts. This caused a great resignation leaving managers with a significant shortage of staff.
Addressing the gravity of the situation, Omnia Health hosted a virtual webinar titled, ‘Nursing During Late Covid: Challenges and Opportunities’ recently, featuring experts Sofia Aleabova, Nurse Manager at GluCare Health, and Mohamad Fakih, Chief Nursing Officer at Fakeeh University Hospital. The session focused on present-day obstacles faced by the nursing industry, notably in the context of the late pandemic era, and proposed solutions.
The session revealed how the healthcare industry could address the massive shortage of nursing staff and the role of tech and innovation to aid efficiency. Experts also highlighted the burden of gender divide, and while sharing change-driven solutions to assist mental health and keep ‘burnout’ at bay.
Discussions also explored support systems such as the need to establish forums for nursing professionals and uncovering the truth behind low recruitment and wages.
Excerpts from Omnia Health’s webinar:
Is there a forum where nurses from all over can converge here in the UAE?
Mohamad: The Emirates Nursing Association (ENA) has been actively engaging nurses from the UAE with various nursing initiatives. Last year, they invited the founders of the “Daisy Award” for a conference in Abu Dhabi, where nurses from UAE and the rest of the world attended, while in 2018, they hosted a regional conference in the UAE featuring the International Council of Nurses (ICN). I strongly believe and encourage nurses and nurse leaders through the ENA to introduce more interactive sessions, especially with hospitals in the UAE through their Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs).
At Fakeeh University Hospital, we took an initiative in 2021 and 2022 to engage with all CNOs in the UAE and published a white paper with recommendations shared by them.
Sofia: Nurses in the region have found online communities on Facebook and LinkedIn, such as ‘Nurses in Dubai’, where we bring up various points of discussion. These groups are rich with helpful information and experiences, and when combined, they create a network of support for new and existing nursing professionals in the UAE.
Mohamad Fakih, Chief Nursing Officer at Fakeeh University Hospital
Please tell us about the post-pandemic state of nursing recruitment. Has nursing recruitment diminished, including salaries?
Sofia: I personally do not believe that nursing recruitment has diminished. In fact there is a huge need for professional nurses with high qualifications. Salaries, however, are a different issue. One's salary is based on many variables such as years of experience, specialisation, education level (diploma vs bachelors vs masters vs PHD), and the amount of research and publications. All these factors result in a certain level of salary.
The other reason for low salaries for nurses especially in clinics is the new recruits themselves. Young and new nurses coming to the UAE for the first time accept and agree to a much lower salary than nurses who have been living and working in the UAE for some time. As a result, clinics tend to lower the nurses’ salaries, as they agree to work for a lower financial benefit and this reflects negatively on the entire industry. There are many aspects that nursing departments need to work on, not only in the UAE but globally.
My advice to nurses would be: know your worth, appreciate yourself, your knowledge, and your skills. Do proper and thorough research of the field and salary ranges before accepting any job offers in any part of the world.
Sofia Aleabova, Nurse Manager at GluCare Health
Mohammad: I feel that nursing retention is a challenge that most hospitals face all over the world. For UAE-based nurses, western countries are attractive because of the benefits they provide. For example, a post-pandemic U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand are onboarding nurses from all over the world and facilitating them into their country’s programmes and healthcare systems.
The UAE has also been proactive in this case. The government now grants the Golden Visa to nurses, which is considered a major retention activity at a country level. However, organisations still play a bigger role in retaining nurses. They need to implement competitive salary scales, staff development activities, and implement career ladders.