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What to do with all of the nurses?

Jul 26,2014 - Last updated at Jul 26,2014

If you think unemployment is bad amongst university graduates, try looking at recent nursing graduates in Jordan!

Back when I finished my master’s degree in 1999, there were a total of five nursing schools accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education. In less than a decade, that figure has risen to 16 and the number of such schools spreading throughout the country has shown no signs of slowing down. 

With so many nursing schools mushrooming almost like forced migrants to Jordan, it should come as no surprise that the future is uncertain for the nearly 1,500 recent nursing graduates and thousands of other unemployed registered nurses in the country. 

Equally shocking is that 50 per cent of the accredited nursing schools are said to be low-performing, with a small percentage of all applicants passing in 2007, according to the Jordanian Nursing Council and the higher education accreditation association. 

For those fortunate enough to pass, the chances of landing a nursing job seem dimmer than ever. Blame it on an oversupply of nurses, limited job opportunities, or the lack of quality education in several nursing schools. Many of the recent nursing graduates have been left out in the cold, wondering if they will ever be able to obtain a paid position as a nurse.

It wasn’t always like this.

For years, Jordan was known to produce some of the best trained nurses in the Arab world, which is a primary reason why so many Jordanian nurses were recruited to work in the Gulf states and the United Kingdom, among other countries, where they flourished in their field. 

Today, both recent graduates and registered nurses are locked in a fierce battle to secure the few positions that are available in the Kingdom. With nursing opportunities in Amman being so scarce, many nurses have been forced to go on a countrywide fishing expedition in order to hook the few opportunities that are currently available.

During the last four years that I lived in Karak, I have been teaching undergraduate student nurses at Mutah University. These students openly told me that they were taking up nursing not for the love of the profession, but for the opportunity to find a job.

Unfortunately, this attitude was not confined just to the nursing students I met in Mutah, but it appears that the most common reason why Jordanians are taking up nursing is to get a job abroad. 

Although more than 7,000 registered nurses have landed jobs in the Gulf states over the past decade, to qualify for these positions students have to do more than successfully pass their course requirements. In order to be even considered for a nursing position abroad, a nurse is required by the Jordanian government to have two consecutive years of work experience.

Hence, the problem lies not only with the lack of openings for nursing graduates but also with the reduced budget for recruiting new nurses, making competition for these scarce slots even more constricted. As a result, many registered nurses have either decided to surrender their career or attempt to find contractual work, which doesn’t qualify as part of the two-year work experience requirement.

Still, the dream of becoming a nurse has not stopped a substantial number of new nurses from at least trying to break into the field by becoming volunteers for a fee. Since 2010, this practice has become so rampant that nurses can no longer apply directly to a hospital without undergoing volunteer training. Although a 2010 decision by the health minister prohibits such a practice, many hospitals — including those affiliated with the health ministry —  appear to have ignored this decision, with some trainees being made to rotate at night shifts when they are only supposed to work in the day shift and for not more than eight hours. Some hospitals even require trainees to sign a waiver terminating the employer-employee relationship so if they make a mistake, they are on their own. Such a practice is not only counter-productive for the trainee, but it can easily put the patients they are caring for in grave danger.

Thus, although the dream of actually fulfilling the two-year work experience requirement appears to be more and more distant, there are some who continue to believe in themselves and refuse to give up on their goals. For those nurses that continue to reach for the stars, I salute you and wish you the very best in making your dreams come true!


The writer is assistant professor of Nursing Management and Leadership at Mutah University’s Nursing Faculty. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.  

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