Can you give us a snapshot of your nursing career thus far? I am qualified since November 2016. I trained in the UK and worked in the NHS for 2 years. 6 months on a surgical ward, 1 year in Interventional Radiology and 6 months in Emergency Department. I have been in Saudi Arabia working in Radiology for the past 8 months.
Why did you choose Saudi Arabia as your destination? I had been looking into working in the Middle East for some time. I attended the CCM open day and learned that Saudi Arabia was the best fit for my experience level and also it was the most financially rewarding option.
What was the nurse registration/visa process like? The process is long, there is a lot of paperwork to be processed. It took 10 months before I got out to Saudi Arabia. But my recruitment agent from CCM helped me every step of the way. It was just a matter of responding to e mails and providing the necessary forms when requested and my agent took care of the rest.
When you first arrived in Saudi, how did the hospital help you adjust? Did they assist with Airport pick, mobiles, bank account, city tour etc? The hospital representative met me and the other nurses in my group at the airport arrivals hall. We were brought straight to get a sim card and data package for our phones which relieved a lot of stress. We were transported directly to the hospital accommodation and then we visited the hospital where were greeted by hospital staff and given a tour of the hospital. The hospital also organised trips to shopping malls and local restaurant which was a great way to get a feel for the culture and get to know some people. Opening a bank account can take a few weeks but I just had to be patient and I eventually got set up.
What’s the accommodation like? What facilities are there? The male accommodation is quite dated and basic, the facilities are not up to the same standard as the female accommodation. However, as I’m writing this, there are plans to relocate the male residence to an upgraded site with more spacious apartments, swimming pool and gym which is close to shops and restaurants
How did you make friends? Did you find it difficult to meet people? I was surprised how easily made friends. On arrival at the airport I met a group of people who were on the same hospital orientation as me which lasted a week. The group hit it off and we are still in contact and meet up regularly. I have attended organised social events for expats which are a great way to meet people. I joined the GAA club Naomh Alee in Riyadh which is a great way to meet people and keep fit. The club organises regular social events, club tournaments and travel to other Middle Eastern countries to compete in tournaments throughout the year.
What’s your social life like? What do you do on your days off? My social life is as busy or quiet as I want it to be. On days off I use the hospital gym or swimming pool. At the weekend there is always a social event going on. Organised trips to the desert, meeting friends for coffee, lunch or dinner. Until the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 I had A very active and busy social life. I am looking forward to when the restrictions are lifted.
Do you get to travel much? What countries have you been to so far? Yes, in the short time I have been here I attended a tournament in Bahrain with the GAA club which was a brilliant weekend. My first annual leave was a week in South Africa, which I could only dream of doing on a nurses’ wage back in Ireland. I had planned to go to Abu Dhabi in March and return home to Ireland in June for a holiday before the restrictions of Covid hit.
What is nursing like in Saudi? Can you describe your unit and your colleagues? How is it different to home and how do you adapt to the differences? Nursing in Saudi is very different to the UK and Ireland. The working culture and care pathways are very different and a lot of practice and policies are based on the USA system. Having said that, part of a nurses’ role is to adapt and apply clinical judgement. After a few months in the system I feel I have adjusted and am more settled.
I work in an Outpatients Radiology department. It is quite a specialised area but as a nurse the same principles apply regarding basic care and patient advocacy. I have been rotated to areas such as CT, MRI, PET scan, Interventional Angio, Recovery. My colleagues are generally very helpful, supportive and friendly. There is huge diversity in the nationalities and cultures of my colleagues which can present challenges with communication. But you learn a great deal about teamwork and acceptance of differences.
What professional development have you had there? I have attended various courses relating to my area of practice including ACLS, Radiation awareness and safety. Person Centred Care.
What is your most memorable moment? Getting involved in the GAA club has been very rewarding. I have met so many people and attended events. The highlight was definitely the tournament in Bahrain.
What is your overall opinion to date? What advice would you give to someone thinking of travelling to the Middle East? My overall opinion has been extremely positive. I have met so many different people and done so many things that I would never have the opportunity to do at home. My advice to anyone thinking of travelling to the Middle East is, come out and get involved. This has been an immensely challenging and rewarding experience. There are so many opportunities here: travel, social, financial. There are ups and downs, it can be hard at times, but there is always an event or holiday around the corner or someone you can call for a coffee who is in the same boat.
Gareth Moles – travelled to Saudi Arabia Sept 2019