By Moromah Al Jefri and Zahara Quresh
Saudi nurse Mona Al Harthy takes the lead.
Over the years, nurses have been stereotyped as medical students who failed to complete their medical degrees. Mona Al Harthy, a professional nurse, aims to break that stigma.
Al Harthy graduated from King AbdulAziz University with a bachelors’ degree in nursing. She, like the majority of nurses, started off as a bedside nurse where she was solely responsible for fully looking after three to four patients everyday. In the past, the number of Saudi women working as professional nurses was low and Al Harthy is among those who strive to change this by encouraging more Saudi female students to take up nursing as a profession.
Al Harthy states that it is widely believed that the job of a nurse is to check vital signs only, but it is much more than that. It has a lot of opportunities such as being promoted to take up different sub-fields according based on knowledge, skills and preference. Al Harthy herself was promoted to Nurse Clinician where she was assigned to manage the staff patients. Furthermore, she had to brief the nurses about updates in policies of the hospital or the World Health Organization.
There are many challenges in the Arab culture that Al Harthy talks about. The most common is not receiving the support of the family. She admits, “My family was supportive but other members of my family weren’t.”
In addition, many intensely criticize women who choose to become nurses and are quite conservative about female nurses’ long night shifts. “It is not typical in our society for a girl to be a nurse,” comments Al Harthy, because they believe that women are sensitive, and hence not capable of handling pressure that the job requires.
A major misbelief exists due to the comparison between doctors and nurses. Al Harthy emphasizes that doctors and nurses have entirely different professions, but they attain the same goal – to provide high standards of medical care.
She believes that nurses who have studied the discipline are responsible for bringing about a social change regarding this perception. Al Harthy initiated a group aiming to improve nursing in the society called Saudi Nursing Pioneering Committee. This committee heads six other subgroups that cover a wide array of topics related to the profession.
“I hope in the future nursing will be chosen as a profession and not an alternative.” – Mona Al Harthy