A colleague I used to work with recently asked me, don’t I miss work at the hospital? My first reaction was yes in a way I do miss it. I miss the patients mostly. I miss interaction with them and the opportunity of meeting so many different Saudis from all levels of society and learning about the culture and customs. Especially I miss having the Bedouin people as patients and seeing those smiles on the faces of pediatric patients.
Read more about quirky bedouin patients here:bedouins-as-patients
Why I love working with Saudi patients here: thank-you-my-dear-saudi-patients
Learn about the amazing Saudi hospitality I experienced with patients here: saudi-hospitality
Read about the salary racism , which is one of the causes behind the workplace bullying problem.
Patient care was always the best part of the job. Naturally I miss some co-workers as well. Many, many awesome people from all over the world I was lucky to meet along the way. I made some great friends and found many like-minded people during the years. I miss the social aspect of work and of course the extra money, who wouldn’t!
What I don’t miss in particular however is the bureaucratic nature of the hospital. Everything is just so DIFFICULT. Things don’t work anything near to how they do in the west although the hospitals claim to be run by the American model. This is 100% a Saudi model complete with a mix of discrimination against sex and nationality, pecking orders, red tape, complicated policies, gross incompetence, random unfairness, cosmetic campaigns, some unprofessional management and so forth.
I don’t miss that one bit. If I could just interact with the patients and not have to deal with the rest of the load, I would be running back. But in the end I think, is it worth the stress and hassle? At the moment I feel it isn’t but I might change my mind in the future, who knows.
Let me give you an example of making simple things complex. Say I have a patient complaining of headache on night shift. I assess her pain and want to give her a mild pain reliever. What I would do in Finland: Go check her computer file for any allergies, previous medications, current medications and illnesses, then proceed to medicine cabinet, open it with the keys I have to get the pain relief of my choice based on my education, knowledge and experience and then go give it to her and document it. Taking about 3 minutes in total.
For comparison lets look at how this simple procedure in Saudi-Arabia turns into something so complex and frustrating it will have you pulling your hair out in no time. Same scenario, patient with headache. I go check her file in the automated medicine dispensing system called PYXIS and find she doesn’t have a pain killer on her list of approved medicines. Then I go to her paper files to double check if there’s any written orders by the physician for a Tylenol (also known as paracetamol, the only drug a physician in a Saudi hospital will write as telephone order) that has been missed by previous nurse. No luck.
Next I have to page the correct doctor. I need to check which team my patient is under and find out who is the on call doctor. If I’m lucky I find it relatively quickly but it might be under a service i’m not familiar with and I will have to do a computer search. I page the number and wait for a reply. If I’m lucky he might actually call back within minutes. According to policy I have to wait 10 minutes. The time goes by and I call again, no reply. Another 10 minutes and finally a reply, the doctor was busy (in some cases, he was sleeping).
Next I have to explain to the doctor the whole history and current condition of this patient just to get this simple medication that anyone can purchase by the truckload at any Saudi pharmacy no questions asked. He finally gives the telephone order and I write it down in the file. Another nurse has to come sign it with me as a witness. The order is STAT meaning the pharmacy should prioritize and activate it right away.
Next I have to fax the order to the pharmacy. The pharmacy staff may or may not be helpful. Usually the latter. I wait for a while next to the machine tapping my fingers on it and then decide to log in to check if the pharmacy has activated the medicine in the machine yet (nothing comes out of this machine without it being on the patients list, not even hand cream). Naturally sometimes nurses take the same drug out under other patients files but this is not the correct way to do it.
Meanwhile the patient has rang the call bell every three minutes. Because I didn’t have time to go to their room and none of the Asian colleagues sitting nearby gossiping in their own language are offering help to resolve the issue, the angry relatives have now ventured out of the room to the hallway demanding for pain relief. I have a reassuring conversation trying to explain the procedure to the shouting male relative and they may or may not calm down and go back to the room.
After waiting another 10 minutes I call the pharmacy and in the most polite way possible (knowing the night shift person is usually in the worst of moods) remind him of the missing STAT order. He goes nuts on me and slams the phone on my ear. I take a deep breath and go back to the machine. Someone is using it so I have to wait until they finish. The relative is breathing down my back looking at me like I’m the most incompetent, lazy nurse in the world.
Finally I get the medicine out and can go give it to the poor patient who has had to wait in the worst case scenario for over an hour for this basic medicine. For nurses the priority is always the patient and their well-being and not being able to help because of these silly limitations imposed on the nurses is very annoying.
The nurses in Saudi hospitals are treated as incompetent, unreliable and uneducated staff. Mere maids sometimes. At least this is how the western nurses often feel about it because they are used to something very different. The lack of independence in the nursing field is the single most maddening and frustrating factor for most western nurses here. It comes up in every aspect of a nurses work in Saudi, not just giving medications, but everything. A nurse has to have doctors orders to give water to the patient after surgery, sometimes to change her position or get her out of bed, or even for applying skin moisturizer (no joke people!) Sometimes it feels as if our whole education was a just waste of time.
So as we were chatting with this colleague she told me how things are still the exact same on the ward. The same problems still exist despite a cosmetic attempt to correct some issues. Such as the bullying. This is not only a problem specific to the ward I worked on, but this particular organization as a whole and in fact the entire Saudi-Arabia wherever there are mixes of nationalities.
The reasons behind the bullying problem are complex but ultimately it has to do with human nature and psychology. Regardless of our backgrounds, religion or nationalities, humans will start acting in certain ways and displaying negative behaviors if placed under certain circumstances. When one nationality is paid 10x less for the same job than another just based on their passport color, problems will arise. When the majority of the staff are of the lower paid nationalities and there are only a small minority of personnel getting the significantly fatter paycheck, more problems arise. If management is under-educated and lacks skills to deal with workplace violence, more issues arise. If the organization and system favors bullies and allows them to easily climb the ladder to higher positions, obviously the problems worsen. And when there are no set rules or policies against bullying, the problem not only persists, but gets worse by time.
This is the sad equation in many Saudi work places, particularly hospitals where people work under extremely stressful circumstances.
The typical Saudi way of doing things at the workplace is having things appear as if something is being done, but in reality it was just for show. Posters, campaigns and workshops against bullying can be issued to make it seem as if the problem has been dealt with. Behind the scenes however if a victim of bullying steps out, or someone exposes the problem or dares talk about it, he or she will in fact be facing denial or brushing off of the issue from most of the management. In other words problems are best swept under the carpet and the people who speak out better silenced.
Now this is typical for most workplaces around the world, bullying will always be a problem and management usually won’t know how to or want to deal with it. In Saudi-Arabia the issues however become more severe and the victims more vulnerable. For one the staff is mostly a mix of expats, all or most far from the support of their families, working in a land with strange culture and customs, perhaps suffering from culture shock. They work under pressure to perform and sometimes using a foreign language. The mix of nationalities can be rewarding in many ways but it can also back fire if there’s a significant imbalance and one nationality feels spite for another because of the differences in treatment and salaries.
I could go on about this problem but I will leave that to another post.
So after talking to my colleague and thinking it over, I don’t miss the hospital and the problems that lie within it but I DO miss the patients!
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Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 75 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram: instagram.com/blueabaya
Irtisanouduin omasta tyostani ja eilen oli viimeinen tyopaiva koululla! Osa tuosta kertomuksestasi on kuin suoraan meidan koulun ilmapiirista – kiusaamisen osalta. Oli aivan kasittamatonta kuinka opettajat kiusaavat toisiaan ja OPPILAITA. En sitten jaksanut edes vuottakaan tuossa paikassa. Toisaalta harmittaa, koska oppilaita tulee ikava, mutta toisaalta ajattelen ettei mun tartte kestaa sita
kuwaitin kaunotar-valitettavan yleista siis tuo kiusaaminen. Onko siella sama homma etta passin mukaan menee palkanmaksut?
Ei passi tietaakseni palkkaa muokkaa. Tuo koulun toiminta oli muuten aivan alyton
This does not surprise me at all, so glad I didn’t decide to work as a nurse in Saudi. But you know I get the same treatment here, the bullying, the main reason why I quit nursing in the first place after 3 years of nursing with only one year to go I couldn’t take it anymore, I was emotional breakdowns because of the way i was being treated by some of the staff, mainly because of my hijab and being an Australian revert. I had one lady who was in charge of the students after 3 years of nursing plus working as an AIN where I never had a problem with my work, tell me I don’t have enough empathy to be a nurse and I should think of changing my majors cause my patients deserve someone better to take care of them. And then i found some of the students I know who wear hijab recieved similar treatment from staff and some of the saudi students I study with told me some of the stuff they were told. Makes me so angry. I knew I was a good nurse, it may have taken me a little longer to
Sorry to hear that Angel! It’s so unfortunately common within the profession, bullying that is. Believe it or not they also used the hijab as excuse for bullying of all places, in Saudi!!
Hope u r doing fine. I am very curious to know your update. Have you moved to Saudi? both ways wish you all the best.
Assuming that you have moved to Prince Nurah University, I am very curious to know ur update and ur reflection on our Saudi Culture.
All the best.
some nurse earn ten times more? that is outrageous! why in the world? is the education they get that bad or just racism? no wonder the workplace is so badly effected with horizontal violence.after reading this I wonder why the nurses even stay I mean the money cant be that good!I know a teacher she used to work in dammam and left because she was bullied out of there and told me how the teachers are such bullies especially the saudis bully the pakis and asians is this true?
yes it goes according to passport, not even nationality as such, since many filipinos go to Canada first to obtain the passport, then come here to get the 10x more salaries.
The comment above in Finnish also addresses the problem of bullying by teachers in the region!
As the holder of a blue passport, I’ve had all sorts of issues with trying to rectify the pay discrepancy in my own head… I will however say that I only received about a 40% pay increase to come to Saudi. Many of my lower paid colleagues have received double or triple their home country wages…it might not make the system perfect, but it does help me justify it…a little.
On the Tylenol issue though, I’ve worked in 3 US hospitals as a hospital based paramedic and neither us or the nurses can give anything other than ice chips without a written order. Now I never stray farther than the ER or ICU so maybe they can on the floor’s, but not to my knowledge. I once had a man walk/stumble into the ER waiting room with a severe allergic reaction, bordering on anaphalactic shock. (His face was the size of a basketball). I used the emergency trauma code to pull epinephrine out of the pyxis and administered it sub-Q while a tech helped me get him on 02 and the monitor. I then started an IV and finally got the Doctors attention. Thought I’d get a pat on the back…instead I got told that practicing medicine without a license is illegal…had to do a lot of paperwork for that “stunt”
Geoff-you’re right, the issue is not as simple as it seems..
I am honestly shocked that nurses are not trusted in the U.S to give a simple tylenol. I mean in Finland I can even give a tylenol #3 without dr orders, if I see it necessary. For stronger narcotics I need another nurse witness and those medicines are closely controlled.
You would think that leads to lot of abuse and medication errors, but it’s not the case.
Man that is just not right at all..I recommend you go work in Scandinavian countries next to be respected as professional and a colleague, not servant of doctors!
Your blog entry is so interesting again, Laylah.
Yes, the nursing field can be so stressful in any country. Your story brings back memories for me here in the US when right after my nursing school I started to work in a mid-sized hospital in Dallas. Stress and the heavy patient load were the biggest burdens at that time for me.
However many of those issues that you mentioned are also here. Plus: nurse-to-patient ratio, mandatory overtime, how to keep boundaries between nurses and patients etc. American nursing organizations are trying to make improvements and they have been able to bring up these issues to the daylight however the nursing is so imperfect field because often times nurses don’t have autonomy. We are required to please others.
I remember one time when I worked at the hospital and my peer nurse during that shift was a nursing school faculty member. According to her there are many many females who end up becoming nurses because in one point of their lives they had been abused by somebody and that’s why they can put up with so much in their working environment. And if you think about it, how would someone in her right mind become a nurse?
And yet, what could be better than nursing! ;)
But at least here it is easy to do some job hopping. You can expand your horizons because nurses are still so much in demand on the job market. I’ve been lucky to experience with other areas of nursing: schools, nursing homes and a bit of home health. Even though right now I’m not working that much and yet my heart is yearning to go back.
Wow, the pay discrimination sounds awful if it is that obvious.
So I imagine the American educated nurses make the big bucks over there, right? Good recruiting agencies…
Sori tuli vähän pitkä… Terkut taas täältä nyt jo melko kuumasta Teksasista! :)
JoHanna-thanks for the comment, very interesting to read!
what do you mean by nurse patient ratio, it is too high there?
I heard that some of these issues were in the U.S too, but never thought they would be treated with so much suspicion and mistrust as the nurses here are. I guess I was wrong! Funny how the american nurses complain so much then! They should come to Finland to work for a while and then experience the Saudi way and the complete shock of how different things can be.
Yes the highest pay are american and australian next comes europe..well not all european countries are even the same! I will write a post on it because it seems to interest ppl so much!
Well, especially night shift nurses may have 8-9 patients to take care of, during the day the number may be around 5-6. It’s a lot if you have to give many IV piggy bags, meds, change IV sites, communicate with docs, family, do stupid run around tasks e.g. ice chips for the patients and the list goes on and on… And then do not forget the endless documentation, don’t even get me started with that.
I guess in Finland being a nurse is so different because ther you don’t need to worry about the possible law suits. Here it is “if it wasn’t documented, it wasn’t done!”
OH man my dh hates it at KFSh just like you said they say its American but its 100% Saudi and a lot of BS he has been under so much stress since being there the past 4 years.
btw do you not have a blog button I wanted to add one to my blog love list
Noor I am clueless to blog buttons and such lol how do I get one? I wish I had the tweet and FB buttons ut they don’t show up :(
It is a shame that you’re talking about what some consider the best hospital in Riyadh, how about KSMC (alshemisy) where I work , things will soon get worse in KFSH as it having some management from ministry of health now.
It is a shame really!
My aunt has worked at KFSH for over 20 years and the stories of abuse and bullying she has received over the years are maddening even though she’s Saudi. It’s a toxic work environment .
flawlessvelvet-Oh gosh, sorry to hear that! Is she a nurse?
Do doctors get bullied as well?
Pearl-They do, but in different ways. You know how the residents get “teased” and taunted by the higher ranking md’s, something like this I guess goes on all over the world. I’ve noticed female residents have to be extremely tough to be able to tolerate the pressure and sometimes arrogance coming from their male colleagues.
I wasn’t really surprised when i read this. I’m Saudi and i expect these kind of things to happen in anything that is run by the government (that’s not to say the private sector is any better). Corruption, bureaucracy, putting people in positions even though they’re not qualified for them are things i don’t expect to disappear at all. Now that you’ve mentioned how hospitals are run, ( i can tell by the picture that you work in THE TOP hospital in the country) things don’t look so good, i’m a medical student and i don’t plan to stay here after graduation, i don’t have the capacity to deal with these sort of things.
Reminds me all too well of my experiences as a nurse in KSA! Just came across your blog while surfing the internet, have really enjoyed reading it. Please continue posting. And warmest congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy…
I am American RN working here in Saudi. I’ve been in Critical Care for my entire career. I work in a fairly large ICU here with a 24h Intensivist so getting orders in a timely manner isn’t too difficult. Dealing with the pharmacy and other departments is very frustrating and time consuming. Coming from the US,I can tell you that in no way,shape or form are things being done the American way…I have never worked in a more inefficient place in my life!
As far as pay…yes Americans are paid the most here, but I gotta tell you I made almost double what I make here back in USA….(I’m here for personal reasons ;)..)
I love our Nursing Director…but I’m not too impressed by the nurse manager.
The nurse to patient ratio here is 1:1…piece of cake…
The work schedule here is awful..shifting from nights to days and no consistency…WE do not do this in USA….you’re either a day nurse or a night nurse with most places being self scheduling.
As far as respect…I have earned my respect from the doctors here and collaborate with them on the patient’s care. I really don’t give them a choice…lol
Also in the US we have standing orders for Critical Care patients regarding pain meds, electrolyte replacement, cardiac rhythm changes etc..
I am Muslim and I do wear hijab..here and in the US. No one ever said anything about it back home…besides..I dare them to…Here of course its not even an issue. I do love the patients here…human beings are the same all over the planet…:)
Thank you for sharing your views and experiences!
[…] In a previous post I wrote about the workplace bullying problem in Saudi-Arabia. It was mentioned how the salary disparity between different nationalities is at least partly to blame for this unfortunate phenomenon. Read that post here. […]
I am looking for anaesthetic nurse job and expecting soon offer.
Curious to know how different is to work as an anaesthetic nurse in Saudi from UK? This is specific area and I have never came across to such a blog.
I would greatly appreciate some comments.
I will ask my Finnish friend, an anesthesia nurse working in a large government hospital in KSA for many years, to leave you a comment here ;)
Thank you Layla,
You are very kind person.
I would be very grateful if she give me some insight what to expect. In UK the anaesthetic nurse can prepare some drugs if the anaesthetist is happy but usually do not apply drugs without direct supervision. We rarely run for the scrub nurses apart for small cases.
I read something about an outbreak of MERS this spring. Is that under control? It is quite scary with 30% mortality.
I came across to that but all posts were from April and May.
Actually I’m a scrub nurse, so can’t really answer your questions. In my hospital we only have anaesthesia techs, and they are mostly locals and a few Filipinos. Another hospital I know has nurse anaesthetists, so they again work very independently. A friend of Layla and I worked as anaesthetic nurse at yet another hospital, so I’ll ask her to comment too.
Most anesthetic nurses from Finland come here as recovery room nurses, as they are too overqualified to work as techs here, as they work very independently in Finland.
There were some MERS cases during the spring, but didn’t affect my personal or work life in any other way, except we had much less operations than normally.
thanks for replying Soile. Yes, i’m confusing the terms now. you’re right the Finnish anesthesia nurses are actually in the recovery rooms mostly.
In general it can be said for sure that the responsibilities of all nurses are much less here.
Thank you very much for your comments. It will be really helpful to know when it comes to interview.
I have experience as a scrub nurse but mostly in plastics and some ENT and paediatrics. Are the scrub nurses there doing all kind of surgeries or they are separated according the specialities? I could apply as a scrub as well but in the last 5 years I have been doing mostly anaesthetics. Here in UK there are mostly anaesthetic practitioners but they are not independent. They study two years and can work only in theatres.
Hi Layla and Soile! (I miss you guys terribly!)
Snow. I´m a Finnish anaesthesia and recovery nurse that worked in Saudi for 3 years. If you have the opportunity to go, GO! It´s hard work, it´s frustrating like you wouldn´t believe but it´s very rewarding! I made some real good friends over there, friends for life!
Are you currently working as an anaesthetic practitioner or as a nurse? As previous discussions already mentioned, different hospitals have different ways. The hospital where i used to work (National Guard) didn´t have anaesthesia nurses. They only employed anaesthesia technicians. The anaesthesia technicians prepared drugs and assisted in intubation etc but only under the supervision of an anaesthesia doctor. I could have applied for working as an anaesthesia technician but would have had a massive salary drop compared to what i was earning in recovery as a recovery nurse.
It might be something for you to look in to but generally a technician is earning a lot less than a nurse. So if you have nursing qualifications i would strongly suggest going for a nursing job. I worked 2 years in recovery and then transferred to angio for one year. So find out if they employ anaesthesia nurses or not :)
All the best of luck with applying! If you do go, keep in touch with Layla :) She knows everything and anything there is to know about Saudi and living there <3
Thank you Heidi,
I just started researching the opportunity for going in Saudi and in a very short notice I was asked to go for an interview. I could not make it and they said that I would have had a position as an anaesthetic nurse. Since I don’t know how their job is organized I decided to do more research. In UK I work more as a technician rather than a nurse. We do not apply drugs in theatre without supervision and is very similar to what I read about the nursing responsibility in Saudi. May be is better if I apply as a scrub nurse. Are their salaries better than anaesthetic technicians? Lately I do recovery but still not very experienced as a recovery nurse. At the moment I am in Day surgery rotating everywhere.
I really want to go and have new experiences and make friends.
Thank you all. You are so kind!
Hi again Layla,
Thank you for the support from you and your friends.
I have another question. My nursing is a diploma level and some degree level courses but still not BS of nursing. There are not very clear messages about that. The nursing transcripts are going to be handed to SA nursing board after I am in the country. Does anybody know what are the requirements? I have sent letters to three agencies but still nothing. One US agency told me that they work only with BS nurses.
I would be grateful if someone answer that question.
I was enjoyed reading your blog ..as i have a lot of questions regarding saudi environment …some i have figure it out in your blog ^_^
asalaamu alaikum…Honestly…as an RN here in the USA and in a BIG, well known urban hospital a lot of what you relate we deal with here…unless a patient has a PRN order for tylenol which is available to use you have to page the intern or resident or fellow or attending on call (depends on the shift and service) and await a response and await the order to be put in and then you call Pharmacy and tell them…hey MD put an order for Tylenol prn in, can you review it and OK it and let me get it from the Medication machine. It can take around 15min or more even for a simple tylenol. Everything requires orders…yes even sips post-op! Everything requires an MDs orders, very few things are ordered as RN Protocol…even things like removing a foley…get the order…OK to remove.
Yes the KSA hospital system and organization is based on the American system, so it will face the same challenges and bureaucracy..Pretty strange that they would want to copy one of the world’s most “notorious” health care systems which is very well known worldwide to have so many problems in it. And then bring that already flawed system into KSA, which is still essentially a third world country, which is full of corruption and other issues when it comes to work morals.. I won’t even go there :D