Nursing in Saudi Arabia - Ann's experience

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Have you ever wanted to explore the Middle East? We spoke to Ann Fleming, an Irish qualified nurse who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for a year, to discuss what you should expect when you work in the Middle East.

Why did you become a nurse?

When I left school, there was really only three options for women when it came to work. It was either teaching, nursing or secretarial work, I chose to nurse.

Is nursing what you expected it to be? 

Not at all, I think it was a little bit of a culture shock when I started. It’s very hard work but it is also very rewarding; I don’t think I could do anything but nurse now!

Why did you choose to work and move to the Middle East?

Well, let’s just say that it was a lifelong ambition! I had my family at a very young age, and they’re grown up now, I always said that if I had the opportunity I would go to Saudi.

Where were you working before you moved?

I was working in mainland Ireland in a GP practice, before that I worked in a hospital.

Where were you working in the Middle East?

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Did you consider other locations when looking for a new job? 

No, it was both the ambition to go over to the Middle East and the great career opportunity that made me consider moving and working in Jeddah.

How did Pulse International help you to relocate? 

Pulse put me in touch with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Dublin to secure my visa. When it was ready I forwarded the Embassy my passport and they put the visa into my passport. The whole process was very easy and stress-free. 

What is the biggest difference between the UK and the Middle East? 

You have to expect there to be a different culture. As long as you accept that there are different rules and regulations you’re fine. They’re really the biggest difference.

What’s the thing you miss most about the UK?

Really I missed being able to contact my family in the first couple of months. I couldn’t get Skype so I had to wait for my Iqama to come through in order to get a sim card to contact them. Iqama is registration to the council, and you can’t get a bank account without this. I don’t drink so it wasn’t a problem for me to move to a country where alcohol is banned. 

If you could choose one food or drink item to be stocked in the Middle East, what would it be?

Nothing! They really have anything you could want out there. I’m from a small town in Ireland and when I went shopping, I was surprised to find that they had eggs from the very town I am from. They also had Kerrygold butter and Cadburys chocolate as well as a lot of American brands. You do pay extra for them because they are imported, but everything is there. 

What are the financial rewards like?

Irish nurses are generally paid more than nurses in the UK or Northern Ireland, so the salaries in Saudi are very similar, however, they are tax-free. You also have accommodation and travel paid for you, really all you are paying for is food.  

Would you recommend Pulse to others?

Definitely, they have helped so much. They’re absolutely brilliant. 

Do you have any tips for those considering the move? 

  • I would say it takes about three months to settle in
  • Make sure you get a sim card at the airport before you collect your bags
  • Take enough money to last you two months – You cannot set up a bank account without Iqama (registration to the council) so make sure you have enough money for two months to allow time to get this

If you could move to/work in any place in the world where would it be and why? 

I would love to work in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai as they are more cosmopolitan. The trouble is that because they are so cosmopolitan, you end up spending what you save.  

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