Danya Yaqoub Abdulla Ali Al Hosani (L) and Muhra Ahmed Mohammed Al Balooshi made the switch to nursing during the COVID-19 pandemic to make a difference in people's lives Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: From aspiring students to senior executives, Emirati nurses are making vital contributions to the healthcare sector in the UAE.

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On the occasion of International Nurses Day (May 12), two such Emirati students shared with Gulf News how they found their true calling in nursing.

Both Danya Yaqoub Abdulla Ali Al Hosani and Muhra Ahmed Mohammed Al Balooshi had started off their higher education in different fields.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in late 2019, Danya was in her first year engineering studies. “I was really enjoying it. But something just changed during those tough times,” she recalled.

She wanted to make a difference on the front line.

“And then, when I saw His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, praising an Emirati nurse in a post during the pandemic, it was like a sign for me,” Danya said.

That is when Danya, a resident of Umm Al Quwain, decided to take a leap and switch to studying nursing.

Meanwhile, Muhra, a Dubai resident, had spent a year studying geology at first. “But there was still something lacking,” she said.

Having excelled in health sciences in high school, Muhra said her inner voice told her she will be happy if she can impact people’s lives. “That’s when I understood nursing was my true calling.”

Both of them are currently in the fourth year of the Nursing Programme at the College of Nursing at Gulf Medical University in Ajman.

“It’s been a great journey, for sure, for four years, and I’m excited to be able to contribute to the community, ready to roll up my sleeves and make a difference in any way I can,” said Danya.

Meanwhile, Muhra said: “Ever since I took up the nursing programme, I have learnt that being a nurse is more than just a job; it’s a way for me to express myself and a way for me to positively impact people’s lives. I find great satisfaction in being of assistance to others and comforting them.”

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Challenging moments

Both Danya and Muhra acknowledge the demands of the nursing career, pointing out the weight of responsibility and emotional toll associated with caring for patients.

“It’s not like any other job where you can just switch off at the end of the day. I learnt how hard the job can be when we’re shadowing nurses during our clinical studies in the hospital. Nurses are swamped with multiple patients. Those instances have been demanding, but a huge learning,” said Danya.

She also shared an unforgettable moment where she encountered a patient who initially refused assistance from student nurses. “But then, I just talked to him, reassured him that I knew what I was doing and my intentions were to help, not harm. And it worked. That moment really stayed with me as a reminder of the power of clear communication and empathy in nursing.”

For Muhra, the biggest challenge was to watch her patients lose their battle for lives. “There was a point when I was overwhelmed by the sorrow and loss I had seen. But I started to see the bigger picture that I was fighting alongside other healthcare professionals in the fight against hardship,” she said.

Despite the challenges, they said their clinical training at the university has provided them with valuable experiences and insights.

Studying in UAE to become a nurse

“The UAE’s nursing curriculum is quite diverse, offering a variety of specialties to students. From medical surgical nursing to mental health and community nursing, we’re given the opportunity to learn in healthcare settings and practices,” explained Danya.

“Also, there’s a strong emphasis on community engagement, and we’re not just confined to hospital buildings. We are encouraged to step into smaller clinics, schools, and rehabilitation centres to build connections with various segments of the society. Another aspect that is relevant in today’s world is the training for mental health caregiving. The insights gained and skills learnt in this area are valuable.”

Muhra added: “Through training in this programme, I’ve gained a deep understanding of why our country’s leaders prioritise training in the health sciences. The critical role nurses play in patient care showcases the importance of investing in healthcare education and ensuring a skilled workforce to meet the needs of our communities. This serves the overall vision of providing quality healthcare and improving the well-being of our society.”

International Nurses Day is celebrated every year on May 12, which coincides with the anniversary of the birth of renowned British nurse Florence Nightingale.

From nurse to deputy CEO: Success story of an Emirati health professional

There was a time when Aysha Ali Ahmed Al Mahri would dabble between a full-time university degree and a regular nursing job — finishing shifts and then running to attend lectures. Aysha’s relentless pursuit of excellence over the years has culminated in her current role as Deputy CEO at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi.

Aysha Ali Ahmed Al Mahri Image Credit: Supplied

Aysha started her career in 1997 when she joined the hospitals under the then Ministry of Health as a nurse after completing her diploma in nursing. Over time, her specialty and focus shifted towards critical care and paediatric health. Later, she earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Sharjah and became one among the top 10 students who graduated from the college.

From there on, the Emirati nurse never looked back. She followed this up with a leadership certificate from McMaster University, Canada. Despite making strides in academics, her passion for nursing, healthcare and tending to those in need only grew with time.

“I became a nurse at a time when Emirati talents were gradually entering the profession, and the immense support and encouragement I received from the community played a significant role in my journey. This support also inspired me to aim for leadership positions,” said Aysha.

Broadening focus

After having served in various capacities within the nursing fraternity for almost 12 years, Aysha aimed to broaden her focus beyond the clinical aspects of healthcare, beginning to engage with the overall operations, regulations, and guidelines that constitute the foundation of the healthcare ecosystem.

Driven by the zeal to explore and learn, Aysha worked at several places before joining the commissioning team of the Al Jalila Children’s Hospital in Abu Dhabi as the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), reporting to the hospital CEO and leading the nursing operation.

Following a stint of about four years as the CNO across hospitals and medical facilities, she joined hands with SEHA — Abu Dhabi Health Services Company — as the Group CNO, reporting to the Group CEO. Becoming the Group CNO meant more responsibility for Aysha, and she decided to acquire more knowledge in the field to take her journey forward.

While serving as the CNO, she received two master’s degrees — one in healthcare management from the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland and another in health economics from Sorbonne University, France.

Aysha said she is also the first female Emirati from the Middle East to be conferred with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Change Maker Leadership Agent Award in 2020.

“The life experiences I’ve gained from this profession have shaped me into the person I am today,” added the mother of two.