The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has committed vast resources by allocating more than 13 percent of its annual budget in improving the Kingdom's medical care system, with the ultimate goal of providing free medical care for everyone. This commitment has been translated to more than 330 hospitals operated by the government and the private sector, with a capacity of more than 50,000 beds. Of these hospitals, 184 are run by the government, with more than 16 thousand doctors, 40 thousand nurses, and more than 25 thousand assistant nurses according to the Ministry of Health (2003). Based on these figures and the Saudi population of 20 million people, to satisfy and maintain the current health care standard, one out of every two hundred Saudi nationals and residents should work within the Saudi medical sector. This number would not include all other personnel working within the private medical sector or other personnel working behind the scenes; where all managerial and logistical decisions are being made. This task of maintaining the current standard is hard, especially at the nursing level. With a country that has a young history, young education system, and young population with more than 50 percent of its citizens under the age of 18 years old. With these facts, having enough nurses seems to be an impossible task to be achieved. Other factors as long working hours and working night shifts in a country that is over protective of its wives and daughters are also factors that contribute to hardening the task. Due to these issues among others, Saudi Arabia has become one of the most nurse importing countries in the world, if not the most, with over 80 percent of its nurses are non-Saudi nationals. The Shortage:
To understand the Saudi shortage in nurses, one has to understand the Saudi dependence on foreign nurses. In a country as young as Saudi Arabia; going from the tribal age to the informational age in less than 70 years was and still considered a dream come true for many people. With a low literacy rates, 15 percent for men and less than 2 percent for women in 1970, Saudi Arabia with its new untapped oil reserved was committed in producing and providing the best for its citizens; schools, hospitals, communities, industries, and jobs. As result, Saudi Arabia has decided that it would import all means and personnel in need to produce a better society. For some time, importing everything was the only solution to the Saudi lack of all modern life necessities, but with the new education system, placed in the mid 60s, Saudi Arabia started collecting its harvest of educated citizens. Unfortunately, the Saudi education system has only focused on high paid, prosperous, and prestigious jobs like doctors, engineers, and lawyers and left basic yet complementary job as nursing way behind. This lack of attention to necessary and complementary jobs, has led the Saudi education system in creating less than 20 percent of the nursing staff working in Saudi today, which in return led into today's significant shortage in qualified and competent Saudi nurses and to high rate of imported nurses (Sadeeq, 2003). Even with a limited nursing teaching facilities, the Saudi social perception of nurses was a major factor in the nurse shortage in the country today. First, being low paying job, nursing is considered a middle to low class job, in contrast with it counterpart of being a physician. Secondly, with long working hours and night shifts, Saudi female nurses have had hard time in practicing their jobs due to strict social traditions. Last but not the least, the people's perceptions of being the nurse of nothing more than a maid; who has to follow the physician's orders and the patient's needs, has ruined the nurse image completely. As hospitals across the country face a shortage in nurses, King Abdulaziz University Hospital (KAUH) as most other Saudi hospitals have chosen the path of importing professional labor to...
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Sadeeq, M., (2003), Nursing Jobs for Saudis, www.alwatan.com, Issue 2298.
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