x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Plans announced for nursing council

The Ministry of Health has announced plans to create a Supreme Council of Nursing and Midwifery.

DUBAI // The Ministry of Health has announced plans to create a Supreme Council of Nursing and Midwifery in an attempt to boost standards of care and improve the image of the nursing profession. The council would be set up under the patronage of Princess Haya bint Hussein, who is married to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Ministry officials said the council would be independent and would also launch a public awareness campaign to boost the image of nursing. It would develop co-ordinated regulatory standards of practice and codes of conduct to protect public safety, as well as place more emphasis on specialist education. Dr Ali bin Shakar, director general of the ministry, made a speech on behalf of the Minister of Health, Humaid al Qutami, at a workshop for health professionals held yesterday to discuss the council. He said: "This country is experiencing major developments and challenges to the health sector, which calls for co-operation to upgrade health services and progress to higher levels." The purpose of the council would be to regulate the professions better and to consolidate and develop policies, strategies and general principles that would "promote the professions". He added: "The interest of the ministry in the nursing and midwifery professions and its dedication to improving standards, is a must. We want to develop nursing education and nursing laws, as well as scopes of practice, and publicise these." The Ministry of Health is at present responsible for the nurses and midwives working in the northern Emirates. The Health Authority Abu Dhabi and the new Dubai Health Authority (DHA) are responsible in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively. This week The National revealed that the DHA planned to overhaul healthcare standards by requiring every medical professional in the emirate reapply for their licence, including the 6,000 nurses who work in Dubai. The DHA has redefined practices and set new sets of standards which all medical professionals must meet. According to figures released by the ministry, there are about 18,000 nurses in the UAE, of whom 15 per cent are Emiratis. The ministry has identified this as one of the main weaknesses in the sector. Low salaries, the low status of nursing and its image and working conditions, and the shortage of nurses, are some of the other problem areas. Dr Fatima Rifai, the director of nursing at the ministry, told the workshop of health professionals that the future of nursing was of special importance. She said: "The ministry is devoting special importance to the nursing professions. We are seeking all possible means to develop and innovate the sector, to equip hospitals and health centres with the best qualified nurses." Speaking to The National, Dr Rifai said her overall aim was to create one body which would create unified standards for nurses working in all the emirates. She said a lot of work needed to be put into changing the image of nursing and midwifery. "People do not see it as a desirable job," she said. "But we need to change this and encourage more people to take it up as a profession." A big problem with staffing levels was the migration of nurses and increasing numbers of foreign recruiters. "There is a worldwide shortage and the UAE is no different. Nurses are a very important part of the health system. They are just as important as doctors and technicians." The ministry was working to recruit more nurses with specialities. "We need more of them and we also need to try and empower the current set," Dr Rifai said. The ministry said it reviewed regulatory bodies in other countries, including the Jordanian Council of Nursing, when deciding how to form the council. munderwood@thenational.ae