For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

Abu Dhabi: The emirate of Abu Dhabi’s public healthcare facilities have enough nurses to cater to patients, but there is still a need to advance their skills, a top healthcare official said in the capital on April 1.

“We have 7,800 nurses working across our hospitals and clinics. However, most nurses possess only general skills. What we are looking for now is nurses who are certified specialists in their field of care, including surgery, renal care, emergency adult and paediatric care, and midwifery,” said Dr Aysha Al Mahri, group nursing and allied health director at the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha).

Nurses with advanced skills can greatly uplift the standard of care across our facilities, and this is our focus at the moment

- Dr Aysha Al Mahri, group nursing and allied health director at the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company

To that end, Seha is working to introduce include an academic qualification programme by the end of the year that will allow nurses to become certified while on the job.

“Nurses with advanced skills can greatly uplift the standard of care across our facilities, and this is our focus at the moment,” Dr Al Mahri told Gulf News.

She was speaking on the sidelines of the first Seha International Nursing Excellence Conference, a two-day forum where hundreds of nurses are meeting with healthcare officials to discuss the future needs of the sector.

As Abu Dhabi’s public healthcare provider, Seha currently manages and operates 13 hospitals with 2,775 beds, 41 primary healthcare centres, three mobile clinics, four dental centres, two blood banks and 10 disease prevention and screening centres. Between them, the facilities see 100,000 inpatients and five million outpatients each year.

Gulf News reported in September 2017 that Seha hired 2,000 new nurses between 2017 and 2018 in order to maintain nurse-to-patient ratios at international standards. Dr Al Mahri said at the time that the skills required of nurses were shifting, especially as the growth of specialist hospitals and medical fields call for specialised nursing care.

“At present, Seha facilities boast nurses with advanced skills in critical care and community healthcare, but most of them have gained the skills through years of experience. We now want to encourage our existing direct care nurses to pursue advanced certifications and become nursing practitioners,” Dr Al Mahri explained. Nursing practitioners must have a minimum of a master’s degree in their specific fields.

In addition, Seha is also looking to boost the number of Emiratis in the sector, as the number has remained stagnant at 124 Emirati nurses since 2017. This requires a change in perception about the profession, and a better awareness of the advancement opportunities it offers, Dr Al Mahri said.