Nada Ahmed: “The outdated view of society towards the nursing profession will have to change.” [Archives:1998/15/Interview]

April 13 1998

The profession of nursing, somehow, refuses to take off. In spite of the early start of Yemeni women in this field, the number of Yemeni nurses has not grown in an adequate way.
Part of the reason is the worldwide reputation of nurses as easy-going. This, in part, is based on the direct contact of nurses with their patients and the odd hours of their work. Such a reputation, generally, unjustified, has hurt the growth potential of careers in this field.
Another reason is that nurses are not adequately paid. A nurse would receive less than US$ 100 per month. Although the Yemeni Government is willing to pay foreign nurses three or four times that much, it continues to be stingy in paying local nurses. As a result, supply dwindled.
Today, there is a serious effort being made to train and qualify Yemeni nurses – both males and females. Ms. Nada Ahmed, a demonstrator at the Nursing Department, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sanaa, is one of the people who eagerly promote this profession.
Nada studied nursing for 4 years. After she graduated, she had six months of training at various departments of the Jumhooria Hospital in Sanaa. She now supervises the work of other nurses at local hospitals.
Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor, talked to her and filed the following interview:
Q: Could you briefly tell us about the Nursing Department at the College of Medicine?
A: The Department of Nursing was established six years ago. The annual number of graduates rose from about 15 students to 95 over 4 batches.
The nursing curricula are a carry-over from those of Alexandria University. Most of the teaching staff are Sudanese. There are also Iraqi and Egyptian teachers. Few are Yemeni.
Q: What problems do female nurses face working in Yemeni hospitals?
A: They are not well paid, to start with. There are no incentives to speak of, despite the fact that their work is very hard. The pay is just not equal to the amount of effort we make. Upon graduating, a nurse would get YR. 8,200 per month. In private hospitals, the minimum salary is around YR. 10,000.
There are also some problems with the hospital’s administration, which differ from one hospital to another.
Doctors usually do not give nurses their due respect and authority. They do not recognize them as qualified colleagues to cooperate with. Health work should be an integrated, bringing the efforts and participation of doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, etc.
The Ministry of Health does not provide a job description to specify the exact roles of nurses. As a result, graduates of the nursing institute and those from the College of Medicine have different roles.
Q: Is every new nursing graduate guaranteed a job in the public sector?
A: The government is not obliged to offer jobs to the new graduates, nor are the graduates compelled to work for the government. It is a free market.
Q: What is the difference between the Nursing Department at the College of Medicine and the Nursing Institute?
A: Secondary graduates join the institute to study for two years, raised now to 3. They study in Arabic. At the Department of Nursing, we are talking about a full college program of four years, and education is mainly in English.
Graduates of the institute sometimes resent the fact that college graduates are above them, and immediately get a higher post.
Q: What difficulties do you face in dealing with patients?
A: Informed patients are generally easier to deal with, while, uneducated or rural patients are somewhat difficult. They sometimes refuse certain types of medication. They often do not fully adhere to the doctors’ instructions.
Q: Do nursing students do practical training?
A: Yes, but the Kuwait Educational Hospital where medical and nursing students do their internships is not well equipped to be an educational hospital. It has few departments and small wards, which are not sufficient for receiving medical and nursing students. There is always overcrowding. Students just do not have ample chance to practice what they have learned at the college.
Some hospital administrators and doctors do not fully cooperate with intern students. In fact, some of them deal roughly with the students. They just see them as a nuisance.
Some patients refuse to give information about their health conditions to the students. They resent being a teaching aid. They say that they come to the hospital to be treated not to become a practicing aid for young students. Some patients are right because groups of students come to examine them too often.
Q: What is admission policy of the Nursing Department? Are there any problems in this regard?
A: Admission policy is made by the College of Medicine and Health Sciences. Enrollment into the Nursing Department was suspended for two years because of lack of teaching staff. Yemeni staff are not given the chance to train or get scholarships. Reliance on foreign staff costs a lot in terms of hard currency. But, the college has failed to attract even the foreign staff.
The Nursing Department is not mentioned in the college’s prospectus. So would-be students do not know there is actually a nursing department.
The first batch admitted after the suspension of enrollment consisted of 30 students, much below the target number of 75. Sometimes, lectures are irregular or below the specified hours.

Q: Do nursing students have the chance to do postgraduate studies?
A: There are no scholarships to study abroad and no postgraduate program for nursing in Yemen.
Q: Any last comment?
A: I hope that the backward view of society towards the nursing profession would change. The stigma attached to the our profession must be eradicated. Many people in Yemen and the Middle East in general view nursing as a lowly profession – the exact opposite of what it actually is. Nurses in the West are regarded with high esteem. Remember Florence Nightingale, who entered history through her humanitarian deeds.
Nursing is one of few professions open to women. It must be encouraged.