x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Path to work easier for healthcare graduates

Health Authority-Abu Dhabi has revised its requirements for the licensing of Emirati healthcare workers.

ABU DHABI // Graduates of healthcare programmes at universities and colleges will now be able to obtain a licence sooner to practise in the emirate.

The new requirements mean they can work at any private or public healthcare facility after a one-year internship rather than have to complete the two years of experience previously needed.

The Health Authority-Abu Dhabi announced the changes yesterday as part of updates to the qualifications required for doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and clinical staff who want to work in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikha Al Daheiry, the section head of credentials and licensing at Haad, said the move was meant to "encourage local emirate citizens to join in the sectors of health and to continue in the medical field".

The updates to the Personal Qualification Requirements (PQRs) take patient safety and commitment to international standards into account. This will also aid the emirate's goal of increasing Emiratisation, said Dr Hatem Al Ameri, the section head of postgraduate medical education and acting manager of health professionals licensing at Haad.

"We cannot tell our UAE graduates that they cannot work without experience if they graduated here; where will they go to gain the experience? We'll lose them this way," he said.

"Provided they work in facilities with supervision and training, we want more people coming into the healthcare sector and not stagnating the situation by saying they cannot get licensed without experience but they cannot gain the experience without getting licensed."

With just minimal changes in the requirements over the past two years, the number of students pursuing a career in medicine rose from 40 to 120, according to Dr Al Ameri.

Only 7 per cent of the 19,103 healthcare workers in Abu Dhabi emirate are Emiratis. Of the 4,757 doctors working in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia, 11 per cent are Emirati.

"We have reduced the years of experience for Emiratis to move up the hierarchy, so in previous years, a certain speciality required six years to be a supervisor and now five years is sufficient," Dr Al Ameri said.

However, this is not about lowering standards, he said. Some requirements have become even more stringent: nurses, for example, must hold a Master's degree and an up-to-date certificate in first aid to apply for a position as director of nursing, and dieticians must have a Bachelor of Science degree to be licensed.

"We are not saying that we are now hiring less-qualified professionals. We are just facilitating the process so that those who are qualified can become licensed and start working," Dr Al Ameri said.

Experience will be standardised for all senior managers, directors and supervisors of departments or divisions. Holding a Master's degree reduces the required years of experience by one year.

Haad has also added new professions that can be licensed, including genetic counsellors, health educators and midwives.

"A need arose in hospitals for the 13 new positions that we added, so we had to address that need in order to fill capacity gaps," Ms Al Daheiry said. "The healthcare sector in the emirate is in a constant state of change and development and we have to be flexible to adapt to those changes."

Consequently, two specialities - dark room and optometry technicians - were made redundant.

"We haven't received a single application for either post in the past two years, as all hospitals now use digital technology and no longer need to employ people to fill these posts, so we removed them from the PQRs," Ms Al Daheiry said.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae