by Joanna Hartley
Friday, 26 December 2008
Well-trained and motivated nursing workforce is a key component in quality healthcare, but in much of the Middle East nurses are a transient workforce in short supply. In the first of a two-part series, Jo Hartley investigates the future of nurse recruitment and the moves to attract local talent.
Globally nurses make up the largest chunk of healthcare professionals and the middle east is no exception. Across the six member countries of the GCC there are around 130,000 nurses and midwives - about double the number of physicians.
In a region facing rapid population growth and soaring rates of chronic diseases, the need for qualified nurses and midwives is set to explode. Set this against the ambitions of some arab states to become world-renowned health hubs, add a worldwide shortage of nurses that has existed for more than 20 years, and the problem of nurse staffing becomes abundantly clear.
Official figures show there is already a 100,000 strong nurse shortage in Saudi Arabia. A study published in human resources for health in march 2007 shows that the density of people working in health in the eastern mediterranean region is the second lowest in the world.
A quick Google search for ‘nursing jobs in the Middle East' brings up listings of recruitment websites offering all manner of nursing positions. These are hallmarks of an industry fuelled by international recruitment, the main method for shoring up nurse numbers in the region's shortage-plagued countries.
Saudi Arabia is a case in point. Seventy six percent of the nursing and midwifery workforce is made up of overseas recruits - just last month the government recruited another 2,000 Filipino nurses. The United Arab Emirates has 85% foreign nurses, while Qatar takes the number one spot with more than 95% of its nursing workforce recruited overseas, according to nurse sources.
Favoured countries for mass recruitment are the Philippines and India with Malaysia, Indonesia and China being the latest countries to join the nurse exporter list. More senior nurses typically come from the UK, South Africa and Australia. Even Middle East countries such as Jordon, Lebanon and Egypt export homegrown nurses to their neighbours.
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