Nursing sector faces overhaul, says DoHMS

The Department of Health’s director of nursing and midwifery services has unveiled plans for major changes to the UAE’s nursing infrastructure, which could transform the profession in as little as 12 months.

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By  Joanne Bladd Published  September 13, 2006

The Department of Health’s director of nursing and midwifery services has unveiled plans for major changes to the UAE’s nursing infrastructure, which could transform the profession in as little as 12 months. Speaking exclusively to Healthcare Middle East, Judith Brown pledged to address recruitment difficulties, install a regulatory system and raise the profile of nurses to a level comparable with some of the world’s more established healthcare systems. The benchmarks have been set in the wake of a nursing care improvement project that DoHMS commissioned last year. “What we are focusing on, above all else, is to improve the standards of nursing and midwifery in Dubai and implement widespread contemporary practice across both public and private sectors,” said Brown. Together with tighter regulations and protocols, Brown believes a key initiative will be to alter the public face of nursing. She hopes to see nurses competing with doctors for more senior roles, such as running specialist clinics, and helping to alleviate some of the pressure placed on the health service. “I’m hoping to create new positions for senior practitioners that allow for extended practice,” explains Brown. “So nurses will be able to run a wound care clinic, for example, as autonomous practitioners. They will collaborate with GPs and in some cases, possess more specialist knowledge than the doctors they will be working with. “Doctors don’t have a god-given right to be the only ones with these skills. In the US, neonatal practitioners are pushing the boundaries of nursing and that is something that I want to bring here.” Ultimately, this means more career choices within the profession, Brown explains, potentially making the UAE a more attractive destination for nurses internationally. “If the universities can help to advance our senior nurses to the next level of practitioner, then we can open up nursing clinics throughout the UAE, from obesity and diabetes to antenatal and postnatal clinics run by midwives. “I want Dubai to be a place that people seek out because it offers professional development.” But to achieve growth on this scale, Brown acknowledges the need to first implement structural changes that offer more consistency to those currently in the profession. “There are pockets of high standards in Dubai, but also places that do not meet the required levels. In order to develop consistency, nurses need to have the tools to help them with professional conduct. “I want to mobilise the sector, interact more with the universities and introduce more workshops and conferences.” According to Brown, such ambitious targets can only be met with a change in attitude towards nursing. “We need to get leadership right, recruitment right and accept that nursing needs to be an integral part of mainstream decision-making within the industry.” As international healthcare’s largest workforce, the problem of recruitment is perhaps more acute for nursing than any other department. Brown’s answer to the problem rests on home-grown recruitment drives, to dispel the idea that nursing is a secondary profession. “We have to show people, particularly undergraduates, that nursing is a fantastic profession which offers a genuine career path. “What often happens is that bright people who show an interest in it [nursing] are pushed towards other areas like medicine. We have to send a message, not only to the pupils, but to the parents and the counsellors as well, because ultimately, they have the most influencing in shaping students’ careers.” Despite the challenges faced by the sector, Brown is eager to point out Dubai’s potential. “We have such a diverse array of cultures here, who can all bring a unique level of expertise to the table. Once we have introduced clinical information systems, I think the potential exists to be a showcase for the region, if not the world. “

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