Almost half the nurses in the Northern Emirates are unhappy in their jobs, a study has found.
Over six months last year, Bilal Abbas El Salibi, a senior nursing tutor with the Institute of Nursing in Fujairah, studied job satisfaction among nurses in six Ministry of Health hospitals, in every emirate except Abu Dhabi.
He questioned 726 nurses at Al Baraha Hospital in Dubai, Khalifa (Ajman), Al Qassimi (Sharjah), Saqr (Ras Al Khaimah), UAQ (Umm Al Quwain) and Fujairah Hospital (Fujairah) about topics including working hours, benefits, and opportunities for promotion. Just one in 20 - 5.4 per cent - was male.
Of those questioned, 38 per cent were "mildly dissatisfied" and 6 per cent "very dissatisfied".
Mr El Salibi, who presented his findings at the Abu Dhabi Medical Congress and has submitted the study to the American Journal of Nursing, called that level of discontent alarming.
Eman D B, who trains nurses at Rashid Hospital, said the key problems were low pay and low prestige. "We still face shortages every day - and it is down to the salary of nurses," said Ms DB, who has worked at Rashid for nine years.
There is no recent data on the shortage of nurses in the UAE, but studies from 2008 showed that the country had about 29 nurses per 10,000 population - much less than other GCC countries.
It was reported in 2010 that the UAE needed 7,000 more nurses.
Ms DB said old-fashioned views of nursing were also a problem.
"My family is supportive of me but ... the public sees you go into nursing because you are not good enough, not smart enough," she said.
"Even patients don't look at us as important people."
For motivation to improve, nurses must be seen as an integral part of health care, said Amal Al Abed, a charge nurse at Rashid Hospital's nursing education unit.
"Nurses are a key success for any project's improvement. If there is no nurse, there is no improvement. She [or he] is a key, dynamic person within any organisation.
"Improving the job satisfaction for them means a lot."
Mr El Salibi also cited a lack of part-time work and professional opportunities as causes of the shortage, as well as restrictive contracts. It did not help that nurses in Abu Dhabi, in particular, were paid more.