Abu Dhabi: With 23,459 nurses in the UAE, out of which only four per cent are Emirati, the Ministry of Health (MoH) is in talks with educational institutes to introduce a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in nursing across all UAE universities in the next five years.

The MoH currently offers a BS degree in nursing for both Emiratis and expatriates in only three higher institutes, the Fatima College, Ras Al Khaimah University and Sharjah University.

"There are not enough educational seats for nurses, and 749 Emiratis is a small number. We hope that in the next five years all universities start offering a nursing degree for students," said Dr Fatima Al Rifai, Director of the nursing department at the MoH during the 25th GCC Nursing Technical Committee (NTC) meeting held yesterday.

Some of the highlights discussed by the GCC NTC, was the need to focus on offering a unified BS nursing degree across the UAE and the GCC, as well as raising the admission criteria for nursing school applicants, who need to be equipped with the necessary skills according to public needs.

Raising standards

In addition, the health ministry in its efforts to attract and retain nurses, introduced the UAE Council Nursing and Midwifery for the first time on March 22.

Describing the council, Dr Hanif Hassan, Minister of Health, said: "The Council will also authorise health organisations as nursing training centres, stipulate the foundations and criteria for raising the profession's standards, propose new legislation and practices to promote nursing and midwifery to achieve quality and excellence in their services."

Lauren Arnold, advisor to the health minister and UAE Council Nursing and Midwifery, told Gulf News that the MoH is currently working on professionalising the role of nurses through enhancing their technical skills and leadership development.

"Now nurses are seen as inferior, we want to change that image by equipping nurses with standardised skills and abilities across hospitals and clinics, to help improve patient care," she said.

Ultimate goal

When Gulf News asked what the UAE MoH intends to do with employed nurses who have not completed their BS degree in nursing, she said: "We will make sure any registered nurse goes through a two-year technical degree, and will offer a BS degree in nursing to those who haven't completed it. Our ultimate goal at the end is to move all nurses to a bachelor level."

The MoH has also signed a two-year mentorship programme with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to help develop leadership skills among Emirati nurses.

The programme Leadership for Change was introduced two years ago, and has witnessed its first batch of graduates recently.

When asked about midwifery, Arnold said: "Midwifery requires its own special attention and it's a huge problem to look into."