May 14, 2007 -- Today the Gulfnews.com site posted a short piece by Nina Muslim, "Emirati men urged to become nurses." The article discusses efforts to increase the number of men in nursing in the United Arab Emirates. It suggests increasing the number of men is especially important because they would not face the "taboo" on women having physical contact with men in such "conservative Muslim" societies. The piece reports that there are now almost no male nurses in civilian hospitals because there are few nursing programs "for men." The piece also says few Emirates citizens go into nursing (presumably the nation relies on foreign nurses) because there is a "misconception that nursing [is] an unskilled profession, long and odd working hours for relatively low pay." The piece does a fairly good job with some key issues in a limited space, though more might have been done to explore the problems these "cultural obstacles" pose for a nation that reportedly has the second highest incidence of diabetes in the world.
The piece reports that the Emirates Nursing Association (ENA) wants more male nurses in order "to help overcome cultural obstacles to providing medical care." It notes that "[m]any families in the Gulf Arab country object to their daughters and wives working as nurses because their work requires physical contact with men, which is a taboo in the conservative Muslim society." ENA president Saeed Fadhel says there are men in nursing at military hospitals but "almost none" at civilian hospitals. Fadhel suggests that at least 30% of nurses should be men. It's not clear how he arrived at that number; would that be sufficient to cover the number of male patients who would object to female nurses caring for them? Fadhel also reportedly says that having more men in nursing would help the nation be "self-sufficient" in health care, an apparent reference to the reliance on foreign nurses, though the piece does not say.
Fadhel says that there is "no stigma" to becoming a male nurse. But the piece seems to suggest there is a broader stigma, for anyone with other options: "The number of Emiratis joining the nursing profession was low, which [Fadhel] blamed on the misconception that nursing was an unskilled profession, long and odd working hours for relatively low pay." This again suggests that most nurses in the Emirates are from other nations. Fadhel also cites "the lack of educational courses for [men], with only two educational institutes offering programmes for men." This implies that men require separate, or at least special, training; the piece does not question that assumption.
Getting more men to become nurses is a key priority if we are to resolve the global shortage and empower nursing to meet the challenges of 21st century health care. Of course, increasing the number of Emirati men in nursing would not, by itself, seem to do much to "overcome" how the obstacles the piece describes work against female nurses. In particular, it would not remove the apparent cultural deterrent to female career seekers. Nor would it ease the apparent burden on the women who now provide virtually all civilian nursing care in the nation, care that would presumably be a challenge if a significant part of the nation did not approve of female nurses providing care to male patients.
The piece concludes with a short discussion of the ENA's plans to initiate specialty diplomas for nurses. The group will reportedly start with diabetology--a special need since the nation is "second in diabetes worldwide," according to the ENA's Leena Ala Al Deen. Later, ENA will provide such training in "maternity, surgery, infection control and critical care." The piece does not include comment from Leena Ala Al Deen, who is female, about working as a female nurse in the Emirates.
We thank Nina Muslim and Gulfnews for this piece.
See the article "Emirati men urged to become nurses" by Nina Muslim from the May 14, 2007 edition of Gulf News.