Nurses’ plight in a low-incentive landscape

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KUWAIT CITY, Sept 21: The nursing profession, known as the “profession of angels of mercy”, is still far from being a Kuwaiti profession due to lack of interest among Kuwaitis in it because of many considerations, including the hardship of the profession itself, its lack of incentives, and its poor basic salary, compared to other government jobs, not to mention the irregularity in increasing its allowances, reports Al-Qabas daily.

According to official statistics, only 1,004 citizens work in the sector, constituting 4.6 percent of the workforce, out of a total of 22,021 nurses working in the Ministry of Health.

In this regard, the Kuwait Nursing Association stressed that the most prominent reason behind Kuwaitis’ reluctance to work in the nursing field is the lack of allowances.

Head of the association Muhammad Saleh Assaf attributed the reluctance of Kuwaiti youth to work in the sector, to a number of reasons, the most important of which is the lack of incentives, cadres, and allowances prescribed for nursing, compared to other government jobs.

He revealed that five allowances have not yet been approved for nurses, which are hazard, pollution, noise, screen, infection, despite the many demands made by the association to encourage engagement in the profession.

Assaf affirmed that the association continues its efforts to achieve high rates of Kuwaitization in the profession, especially with the continuation of the reluctance of male and female citizens for years to join this field, despite the approval of some cadres and financial advantages for nurses after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarding the salaries of nurses, he said they differ from one nurse to another and depends on the certificates obtained, but they usually range between KD 1,000 to KD 1,300 for a “first salary” citizen, and about KD 700 for an expatriate, adding that most resident nurses work on a pay-for-work system.

He explained that another reason for the reluctance of Kuwaiti youth to join the nursing field is also the fact that this profession is considered one among those involving hard work, as a nurse faces great challenges and difficulties which could affect their life, such as providing health care to patients suffering from dangerous and infectious diseases, enduring long periods of work and sentinels. There are other jobs that get occupational hazard allowances, which are not given to nurses. Expatriate nurses face additional suffering from the setting of a specific salary limit to obtain driving licenses, poor salaries, and the difficulty of residing in locations close to their places of work.

Furthermore, Kuwaiti nurses working in the field confirmed that the lack of incentives and the difficulty of the work are the reasons behind the reluctance of the country’s youth to engage in the profession.

They affirmed that the reluctance of Kuwaitis to work in this lofty profession lies in the failure to ensure the availability of a work environment that guarantees the dignity and rights of workers, encourage the distinguished and creative among them, and provide them with opportunities to highlight their capabilities.

The nurses also highlighted the lack of incentives, allowances and financial cadres, as well as the continued exposure of nurses and doctors to verbal and physical assaults from time to time in health centers and hospitals.

They said the nursing bodies usually represent the first line of defense in the face of epidemics and dangerous infectious diseases, like the way it happened during the COVID-19 pandemic during which a number of male and female nurses lost their lives due to COVID-19

The nurses stressed that the failure to allocate allowances to nurses is evidence of the lack of interest that is required in this important and vital profession.

Meanwhile, sources indicated that the health facilities in Kuwait have turned into “training stations for foreign nursing staff who obtain remunerative work contracts in other countries.”

Also, the sources explained that the recent years witnessed a decline in the number of citizens working in nursing, as the percentage of Kuwaitis in the nursing staff at the Ministry of Health was seven percent in 2008, which rose to 11 percent in 2011, and then decreased to 6.2 percent in 2018. There are currently about 22,021 male and female nurses in the Ministry of Health, including 1,004 citizens (4.6 percent) and 21,017 expatriates (95.4 percent). These rates indicate that the profession is not attractive to male and female citizens.

The sources indicated that the Ministry of Health currently has a national program for the development of Kuwaiti nurses, which aims to send 80 male and female students every year to obtain academic degrees in nursing profession from abroad, so that 800 Kuwaiti nurses will be made available within ten years.

They revealed that a number of expatriate nurses face difficulties in bringing their family members to the country due to some procedures, which increases their suffering in terms of difficulty in job stability due to their long years of separation from their families. This led to the resignation of a number of them and their departure from the country in search for better stability in other countries.

The sources said the Kuwait Institute for Nursing Studies accepts 300 to 350 nursing students annually, and the salaries for nurses after appointment vary according to degrees.

They stressed the importance of approving cadres and allowances to support and develop the profession in order to attract a large number of citizens to engage in nursing, and to address the shortage of nursing cadres.

In addition, the Director of the Nursing Services Department at the Ministry of Health Dr. Iman Al-Awadhi stated that the reason behind the citizens’ reluctance to engage in the nursing profession is the society’s view of the profession, as it is one of the hard and difficult jobs.

She revealed that the first half of this year witnessed a noticeable increase in the demand for the profession and its study, following coordination between the Civil Service Commission and Public Authority for Applied Education and Training, especially since nursing education is currently witnessing scientific expansion through the possibility of students obtaining diplomas, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Al-Awadhi indicated that the department is working on carrying out an inventory of the needs of all health facilities, including the new ones, from the nursing staff every three months to study the opening plans, which was done with the recent inaugurations of Jaber and Jahra hospitals and health centers in Sabah Al-Ahmad City and Khairan.

She revealed that there is a shortage of nursing staff in the country, but the shortage is considered global, adding that expatriate nurses have been resigning after getting job opportunities in neighboring countries with better incentives.

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