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Bahrain joins Gulf nursing drive

A Bahraini medical university has taken steps to combat the regionally endemic nursing shortage by opening the kingdom’s first private nursing school.

A Bahraini medical university has taken steps to combat the regionally endemic nursing shortage by opening the kingdom’s first private nursing school.

Responding to the need to produce more homegrown nurses, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Medical University of Bahrain (RCSI-MUB) will be Bahrain’s first non-government school to offer a Bachelors degree in nursing.

The launch coincides with a regional push to improve the standards of nursing throughout the region and offer better career prospects in the field.

“We opened our nursing school last month after we realised that there was a critical need for nurses in the kingdom,” said the university’s president, Professor Kevin O’Malley.

The RCSI-MUB’s initiative is set to bolster corresponding UAE plans to revamp Dubai’s nursing sector, as reported in Healthcare Middle East. Successful nursing students who graduate with a Bachelors degree with have eligible qualifications, under new Department of Health and Medical Services (DoHMS) rules, to take up the role of registered nurse.

Judith Brown, director of nursing and midwifery services at DoHMS explained how focusing on domestic growth and qualifications was vital in the bid to make regional nursing vacancies internationally competitive.

“I want our practitioners to be able to push the boundaries of nursing like they do in the US,” said Brown. “I want to mobilise the sector, interact more with the universities and introduce more workshops and conferences,”she added.

Traditionally a highly transient sector with an almost exclusively expatriate workforce, developments in the UAE and Bahrain are the first steps towards a complete overhaul of nursing infrastructure in the Gulf. With more domestic students attaining higher qualifications and more avenues being extended within the profession, incentives are higher for nurses to pursue careers locally rather than seek placements abroad.

“Part of the difficulty in Bahrain is that the system is so dependent on expatriate nurses,” said O’Malley, who refuted the claim that steep annual student fees made the courses elitist.

“Clearly the provision of healthcare education and training is very expensive, unlike relatively low-cost disciplines such as the humanities.

“As we are not subsidised by the state, we must charge economy tuition fees,” he explained.

It is hoped that a career in nursing will offer a more attractive path for undergraduates; a change that Brown insisted is crucial in order to spearhead growth. “We have to show people, particularly undergraduates, that nursing is a fantastic profession that offers a genuine career path,” she said.

Efforts to address the nursing issues throughout the Gulf have been given extra weight by a recent UK report that makes a strong link between staff shortages and patient deaths.

The study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, revealed that patients cared for by tired and overworked nurses are 26% more likely to die than those looked after by staff with a regular workload.

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