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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

My Ramadan: Managing a medical team and a family is all in a night's work for committed head nurse

Abu Dhabi is now home for Mervat Aslan but the nocturnal medic misses bustling Egypt at this time of year

Mervat Aslan, head nurse at Bareen International Hospital. Reem Mohammed / The National
Mervat Aslan, head nurse at Bareen International Hospital. Reem Mohammed / The National

It’s 1am and Mervat Aslan has just returned home after a tiring shift. Though sleep beckons, she heads to the kitchen to whip up suhoor for her family. It is only after dawn that she gets to rest.

Ms Aslan, an Egyptian living in Abu Dhabi, is head nurse in the out patient department at Bareen International Hospital in Mohammed bin Zayed City. The job brings with it the joy of serving patients but also demands odd hours and rigorous labour, a tough task in Ramadan.

“The best thing about Ramadan is that the family eat together at the same time. Otherwise everyone eats in their own rooms and at their own convenience. It’s also a great time to strengthen bonds within the family,” says Ms Aslan.

Coming to UAE three years ago from Egypt, the expatriate reminisces about Ramadan in her homeland.

“Ramadan in Egypt is lively, loud and full of iftar invitations. We like to share food during Ramadan,” she says.

Even in Abu Dhabi, the family is busy inviting friends and family, or attending iftar gatherings at least twice a week.

“We have a tradition of giving our children lanterns in Egypt and when my children were younger watching them play with these lanterns gave me a lot of happiness,” says the mother of three children - Mohammed Talaat, Nada and Toka.

“We like to decorate our house with lanterns, stars and crescents. Every house in Egypt has lanterns during this month."

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MAY 20, 2018. Ms. Mervat Aslan, Head Nurse - OPD at Bareen International Hospital. (Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National) Reporter: Anam Rizvi Section: NA
Ms Aslan at Bareen International Hospital. Reem Mohammed / The National

Ms Aslan has a busy day of making schedules, assigning the proper nurse according to specialty and observing, teaching, and training nurses. The family supports her by helping with chores and Toka helps her mother prepare Iftar.

“Usually my son doesn’t want to help, but even he relents and helps in Ramadan,” she says.

Kunafa, Atayef and Sambousek are some of the traditional items on their iftar table.

“I like Ramadan in UAE as its quiet and provides you time to read Quran. Ramadan is a month that brings you closer to God and to everything good,” says the expat from Alexandria.

“During Ramadan, we have shorter hours but the work is not very different. Our service to the patient is the same. The clinic is busier after iftar.

“We have a morning or an evening shift but I get a choice. Most of my work is in the morning but as I am the head nurse, I have to be role-model for the other nurses and I come to the hospital in the evening too.”

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Read more:

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Staying healthy during Ramadan: what to eat and what to avoid

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When Ms Aslan is working the evening shift during Ramadan, she is at the hospital until midnight and sometimes until 1am if there are many patients.

“We have to finish our work and only then can we go. If I am working the evening shift, I am at home all day and I spend time with my children,” she added.

“At the end of the day, I feel fatigued and suffer from low blood sugar. However, I think of the underprivileged who don’t have food while for us it’s only a few hours of staying hungry. This motivates me,” said the nurse.

“When the patient needs something and we can help, this makes me very happy,” she said.

The nurse said she often sees many people coming in suffering from stomach trouble and reflux after overeating in Ramadan.

As a medical professional, the nurse tries to give her family a healthy meal but succumbs to traditions of consuming sugary treats after a long day of fasting.

“I try to include a salad and make sure there is a healthy protein-based main dish at iftar,” she added.