Why are Saudi nurses still tackling stereotypes?

Nouf Al-Menaif, who works in nursing, said nurses have the right to earn a living like other women working in other jobs.

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A number of young Saudi women nurses are facing problems and obstacles in their work environment that hinder them from performing their duties properly.

Nurse Abeer Al-Sa'edi told Makkah Daily that some people reject the idea of women working as it allows for both genders to mingle, going against Saudi traditions.

She said: “There is no doubt that some television dramas give the wrong image of working nurses and instilled incorrect stereotypes in the minds of many who are against women working in this sector.”

Iman, another nurse, stressed the need to develop nursing by providing nurses with the necessary knowledge and professional development in addition to improving the image of the profession in the community by highlighting the role of employees.

She said that there is a difference between Saudi and expatriate nurses because the former usually have families to care for while the latter are usually alone in the country and are completely free of any family obligations.

Sawsan, also a nurse, said nursing is neglected profession and many are unaware of the problems employees in the field face when dispensing their duties.

Amaal Nour, who works in the profession, described the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties nursing exams as difficult and said nurses are not given the appropriate opportunities to develop their skills.

Fellow nurse Wafaa said that her family were at first against her working as a nurse, but her persistence finally convinced them and now her other sisters are also working in the field.

Psychology consultant and member of Amnesty International, Dr. Huda Al-Sharif, said the negative image of women nurses is due to the stereotypical claims of long working hours, employees working during Haj and mixing with men, in addition to others.

She explained there are nurses working in women only hospitals and clinics as well as some private hospitals that have dedicated sections for women. "The problem is complicated and caused by the accumulation of numerous negative stereotypes of nurses," she said.

She pointed out that the issue requires an immediate solution and can be a major threat to society if it continues, as women may well become reluctant to specialize in nursing.

Sarah Khayat, a nurse, said any profession including hers has its advantages and disadvantages.

She said: “Some lose their trust in medical care when they see a Saudi nurse, while some view nursing as a simple profession and that nurses are simply assistants to doctors.

“Nursing is a humane profession in the first place and is complementary to the medical profession.”

Abeer Al-Subhi, a nurse, said the negative perception of the nursing profession is due to the nature of its work where covering night shifts is sometimes required, conflicting with many family responsibilities.

“Many in society believe that the duties of nursing are marginal compared to the duties of doctors and that nurses cannot be effective mothers,” she said.

Nouf Al-Menaif, who works in nursing, said nurses have the right to earn a living like other women working in other jobs.

She suggested reducing working hours for women working in the health sector in consideration of their other family duties.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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