Nursing in the Middle East – Your next adventure
What exactly do we mean by ‘Middle East’ and why are there so many opportunities there?
When we talk about the Middle East we’re generally referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (in total there are seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah).
These countries invest more into healthcare than most others across the globe – an investment of necessity, as the region faces rapidly growing populations, higher incomes, rising life expectancies and a high incidence of lifestyle-related diseases. Saudi Arabia alone plans to spend an estimated £25 billion in 2017 on health, including building and upgrading 38 hospitals and two medical ‘cities’.
The region’s health care workforce consists mainly of expatriates. In fact, in some states up to 70% of healthcare workers come from overseas. Demand is high and nurses who’ve trained and worked in the UK are among the most highly sought-after, alongside Americans, Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders.
Who can work there?
Nurses need to have at least two years’ post-registration experience. Those with advanced qualifications and experience within a specialist area can usually access higher rates of pay. Most contracts are for one or two years.
What are the benefits?
Tax-free income, free accommodation and a low cost of living make working as a nurse in the Middle East very appealing. In addition, no interest is paid on accounts in the GCC states. (Islamic law prohibits earning interest on money)
Free accommodation is provided and all personal medical treatment is paid for by your employer. Depending on the level and grade of your position, your contract may also extend these benefits for your family. Annual leave allowances are very generous – sometimes over 50 days per annum – and with Africa and Asia within easy reach, many nurses take the opportunity to travel during their time off.
Where would I live?
Free accommodation is provided, usually within a gated compound located in or near the grounds of your workplace. These complexes are extremely comfortable and offer a great way to socialise and meet new friends. Recreational facilities such as a pool, gym, tennis courts and even shops and restaurants are included, as is free transport if the accommodation is not within walking distance of your workplace and shopping centre. Obviously you’re free to come and go as you please although some compounds do have late-night curfews.
What about cultural differences?
Cultural differences can vary depending on which GCC state you’re working in. Saudi Arabia is a very conservative state; in public areas, women are required to wear an abaya (a black, lightweight cloak that drapes over your clothing) and a scarf to cover their hair. Men are also required to dress modestly – no sleeveless shirts, or shorts. The UAE is less conservative than other Middle Eastern states. The dress code is relaxed, although it’s still a Muslim state so we’d advise you to dress modestly in public places.
Most patients are of the Muslim faith and their religion will be an integral part of daily life. For example, one of the primary duties of Islam is to pray five times each day, at specific times, facing Mecca. Prayers must be accommodated into every patient’s treatment schedule.
And then there’s the weather. There are only two seasons in the Middle East: winter and summer (jokingly referred to as hot and hotter!) Temperatures in July can soar to more than 50 degrees and rarely fall lower than 25 degrees in December.
Interested? Get in touch today…
As well as a great lifetime experience, working as a nurse in the Middle East for a year or two will provide career progression opportunities and a chance to earn a very generous tax-free salary.
Pulse is one of the leading international agencies for nurses looking to relocate there. Register with Pulse and we’ll support you throughout the process of moving and working in the region, offering advice on everything from visa applications to how to adapt in your new environment.
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