A total of 84 undergraduate and graduate nursing students at the University of Calgary in Qatar celebrated their convocation this weekend, entering the job market as the country grapples with a shortage of qualified nurses.
The class of 2015 is UCQ’s biggest, and for the first time includes nine graduates of the branch university’s Master of Nursing program.
Mashael Jassim was the first Qatari national to celebrate her masters’ qualification and gave an address to the gathered family and friends of the students, who were joined by minister of public health Abdullah bin Khalid Qahtani as well as officials from Hamad Medical Corp (HMC), Primary Health Care Corporation and Sidra.
Jassim currently works as a clinical nurse specialist in colorectal surgery at Hamad General Hospital.
In a statement ahead of the university’s sixth graduation ceremony, she urged other Qataris to consider studying nursing, saying:
“Qatari women have an important role as examples to other women. We Qatari nurses are few. There is a need and an urgency for more of us to be educated to a high level.”
She was among 22 Qataris who graduated with nursing degrees this year, equating to just over a quarter of the total number of students honored at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) on Thursday night.
This is broadly in line with the number of Qataris graduating from UCQ in previous years.
Two of the 75 undergraduate students, Stephany Tapa Neng and Monaa Mansoori, were also honored for their academic achievements and received the bachelor of nursing gold medallion and post-diploma bachelor of nursing silver medallion.
Addressing the students, University of Calgary Chancellor Dr. Robert Thirsk said: “The University of Calgary congratulates these graduates, who will champion and embody the noble ideals of the nursing profession here in Qatar,” the Peninsula reported.
Since the Qatar branch of the university was set up in 2007, UCQ has graduated 234 students and has 51 Qatari alumni. There are currently 600 students at the university, the school said on Twitter:
UCQ now has:
225 Bachelor of Nursing graduates
51 Qatari national alumni
9 Master of Nursing graduates
600 current students#UCQConvocation
— University of Calgary in Qatar (@UCQNursing) November 27, 2015
The graduation from the state’s only nursing college comes as Qatar grapples with a dearth of skilled medical personnel, amid a rapidly growing population.
Earlier this year, a senior HMC official said the country faced a “severe shortage” of trained Qatari healthcare professionals in particular.
HMC’s Director of Medical Education Dr. Abdullatheef Al Khal reportedly said only five Qataris a year become doctors, though at least 15 are needed t0 graduate annually to meet increasing demand.
He added that fewer locals have been training to be healthcare workers in the last decade, meaning that the country has had to rely more on staff brought in from abroad.
“We are facing a severe shortage of qualified citizens in the health sector, including nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other supporting staff such as in first aid,” Al Khal said.
A shortage of nationals studying and working in healthcare is a problem faced across the Gulf.
A report published early last year by management consultants McKinsey & Company found that hospitals and clinics across the region have been relying on overseas recruits to help fill what is predicted to be a 240 percent increase in the demand for services by 2025.
At the time of publication, it said more than two-thirds of doctors and 91 percent of nurses in Qatar are recruited from abroad.
Qatar has tried to make efforts to train more doctors in particular through its programs at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and at the newly-established College of Medicine at Qatar University.
There can be social barriers to women taking up a career in nursing. However, some experienced nurses are trying to encourage families to consider the profession as a suitable career for young Qataris.
Qatari nurse Somaya Al Haidose has worked with HMC for 19 years and has set up a number of health education and awareness programs for the wider community.
“Nursing is a dynamic profession that serves our population by improving their health. Qatari nurses bring a unique understanding and awareness of the local culture and the social and religious needs of Qatari patients and their families. They also help non-Qatari members of their team to understand the requirements of the Qatari population,” Al Haidose, assistant executive director of nursing for patient and family education, said in a statement.
Authorities are also trying to incentive nationals to consider a medical degree by offering generous government scholarships during their studies.
Nationals are prioritized at intake at UCQ, for example. According to its admissions criteria, “UCQ programs is given to qualified Qatari students,” adding that those students who don’t meet the requirements for English proficiency can be enrolled in a foundation program.
Congratulations, graduates! Thoughts?