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What's in a name

June 3, 2006 -- Today the Gulf Daily News ran a short, fairly good piece by Tariq Khonji about how to address the "chronic shortage of nurses" in Bahrain. "Incentives call for Bahrain's nurses" discusses calls for better working conditions and pay. It focuses in particular on a Bahrain Nursing Society proposal to improve nurses' position in government pay scales by reclassifying them as "professionals." The nation's Civil Service Bureau (CSB) is reportedly reluctant to do that because only "a handful" of the nation's 4,000 nurses currently have bachelor's degrees.

The piece appears to be based on a press conference held by Bahrain Nursing Society president Rula Al Saffar. She reportedly stressed that if nurses' working conditions did not improve, it "could lead to errors by nurses and potential harm to patients." Al Saffar said that Bahrain nurses are often forced to work overtime without compensation, and that they have few chances for promotion.

The piece focuses in particular on the pay issue. Al Saffar reportedly points to nurses' low salaries as a key factor in the shortage. To address it, she wants the CSB to implement the Nursing Society's proposal to classify nurses as "professionals," though she says the CSB is considering instead a Health Ministry plan to award that status only to nurses with bachelor's degrees. According to Al Saffar, the CSB argues that if it places nurses without bachelor's degrees in this category, those in other professions will demand similar treatment. That of course suggests that the category does not now include anyone without a bachelor's degree, though the piece does not say so clearly. Al Saffar says that the Health Minister now backs her plan, and argues that academic qualifications should not be the only factor, noting that few Bahrain nurses have the degree "because the programme is still new."

Al Saffar argues that the current nursing salary is not "enough for people who work in an environment where they risk getting serious diseases." She might have also noted that nursing is an autonomous profession that involves critical thinking and a high level of responsibility for the lives of patients. The Center, of course, does view nurses as "professionals." But the story points up the problems nurses around the world will continue to have in getting adequate respect and resources when many nurses have less formal education than colleagues in comparable fields. The piece might have explored efforts to improve educational opportunities for nurses, and included responses from the Health Ministry and the CSB.

We thank Tariq Khonji and the Gulf Daily News for this generally helpful piece.

See the article in the June 3, 2006 edition of the Gulf Daily News.

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