When asked to imagine the Middle East most westerners will probably conjure up stereotypical images of Mediterranean-style flat-roofed architecture, deserts and mosques. They may also think of volatile political situations or strict Islamic codes of behaviour.
But these images are far from the whole story in this diverse and fascinating region. One middle-eastern country – the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – is developing at a breathtaking pace. The wealth it has generated through oil revenues has transformed this desert state. In only a few decades it has built – almost entirely from scratch, one of the most modern cities in the world – Dubai has a host of iconic buildings and hotels that have redefined luxury and made the city a leading holiday destination.
The country is keen to attract UK-trained nurses to work in its modern and expanding healthcare system. It values their education and skills and is therefore an attractive place to work for those who plan to spend time overseas.
The UAE provides free healthcare and has excellent hospitals with the most up-to-date of facilities, particularly in Dubai and its other large city Abu Dhabi.
Healthcare providers are usually looking for nurses who have over two years’ post-registration clinical experience, and usually ask for a minimum of a year’s commitment.
Hospitals are looking for general medical and surgical nurses and also have a range of specialist positions available. Nurses who decide to spend time working in the UAE can expect a tax-free income dependent upon their skills and experience, free accommodation and often free transport.
Outside work, the country offers plenty to keep its residents occupied. On the coast they can try water skiing, scuba diving and boat racing. Other sports such as golf, tennis and riding are also available, while there is also the opportunity to see the dramatic contrast between the UAE’s gleaming new cities and its recent history by taking organised trips out into the desert. Its diverse geography also includes mountain regions and salt planes.
Like most of the region, the country is extremely hot in the summer, making air conditioning a necessity, but temperatures in winter are warm during the day and temperate at night. This is when the country come into its own for people who enjoy outdoor pursuits.
Shopping in the cities is world class with famous international designer stores and UK high-street favourites all represented, and unlike in many other middle-eastern countries, alcohol is both legal and widely available.
Around 75% of residents come from abroad – the largest groups come from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Many others come workers from Australia, New Zealand, UK, South Africa, Canada and the USA.
Such a large expatriate community means there are plenty of newcomers looking to make friends. Nurses going to practise in the UAE can therefore quickly develop a lively social life, while working in the hospitals gives them opportunities to meet and get know locals. While the local language is Arabic, the country is home to a plethora of nationalities, and English is widely spoken. While nurses do not need to learn Arabic in order to practise in the UAE, locals will appreciate it if they learn a few words and phrases. People who are ill or in pain will find it comforting to hear their native language from the professionals caring for them.
Men and women in the UAE have equal rights, and unlike in many Middle Eastern countries there is no prohibition on the clothing women wear in public places. However, expatriates should be sensitive to local culture and beliefs – while sunbathing in bikinis is acceptable on tourist beaches, revealing clothing should be avoided elsewhere to avoid offending the Islamic population. Women are advised to bare arms and legs, while bare chests for men are unacceptable.
The country also has an extremely low crime rate, making it a safe place to live, while the troubles affecting much of the region have passed the country by to date. It has so many things to offer it is well worth considering as a destination.
Benefits of working abroad
- Gain first-hand experience of other healthcare systems
- Experience other cultures and ways of life
- Fund overseas travel
- Develop new clinical skills
- Experience new environments and climates
- Broaden your horizons
- Learn new life skills