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Why do not Indonesian Nurses Choose Saudi Arabia?

Recently, I participated in a meeting with investors from Saudi Arabia as an Indonesian National Nurses Association (INNA) representative. The Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh, the Indonesian worker agency, and educational institutions representatives also took place. The discussion aimed to develop plans and strategies for recruiting skilled nurses and approximate them with the standards of health workers in Saudi Arabia.

In the meeting, one of the hospital representatives expressed difficulties recruiting workers due to an imbalance of supply and demand of professional health workers in Saudi Arabia and a dilemma in reaching skilled nurses from countries that have been in partnership. As I noted, KSA has been collaborative with Southeast Asia and African countries to provide the workforce necessities.

Several results from the meeting could be shared such as the number of nurses they will recruit, the availability of the training center, and nurses’ criteria that match the request. However, as an Indonesian health worker who has been working in KSA, I want to highlight some points as solutions and evaluations regarding the opportunities to work in Saudi Arabia, including the obstacles and challenges that follow.

From the investor’s point of view, several considerations will influence decision-making in recruiting workers, including language skills, professional skills standards, a high worker turnover, and qualifications by the Saudi Nursing Council. The investors found difficulty recruiting Indians and the Philippines due to recruitment costs and high salary standards.

In addition, based on my experience, those workers from both countries used the opportunity to work in KSA as a steppingstone to work in more prominent countries such as Europe or the USA after 2-3 years of work. The more efficient recruiting cost and time to spend, the better investment should be. For those reasons, investors are more likely to recruit nurses from the African peninsula, which uses Arabic as a mother tongue.

As the fourth largest population country in the world, Indonesia has a significant and potential supplier to produce health workers, especially for nurse and midwives. Based on the Indonesia Ministry of Health (I-MOH) in the last 2023 database, there are 664,660 nurses and 396,768 midwives acrossthe nation, the most considerable number of health workers among others.

Indonesia produces at least sixty-three thousand graduates of nursing education in a year, Indonesia has a limited availability of jobs. Yet, working as a health worker abroad promises better income and several benefits rarely obtained in the country. Indonesia is expected to contribute more to providing health workers with KSA needs, now and in the future.

The large number of workers, a culture of diligent workers, and an adapt to a new environment that is already known internationally, coupled with the easy flow of worker recruitment, the potential for efficient investment needs and similar beliefs as Muslims are the main attractions for investors recruiting Indonesian workers. Despite the condition, only a few of Indonesia’s health workers choose to work in the Middle East.

Many researchers mention that language barrier, the lack of global-oriented work, family support, a familiar culture and social environment, and the desire to become a civil servant who promises financial security to become an internal obstacle. Those internal factors I have mentioned can generally differ among nurses, but if you look at the reality, almost overall, they have the same point of view to work abroad.

For the external factors, socialization in choosing KSA as a workplace is not optimized. Basic information such as registration patterns, mandatory criteria, kinds of tests, and skill evaluations are limited and different from recruiting for other countries such as Japan, Germany, or the Netherlands, are more transparent.

We are all aware, very few training institutions that provide adequate preparatory program to graduates as a registered nurse in the Middle East, domestically. The existing institutions focus more on recruitment, with only one to two weeks of preparation training. In my opinion, this is insufficient to provide nurses with knowledge and significant understanding. There must be standards or curricula for training connected with the institutions that affiliated with labor supply companies to prepare knowledgeable nurses in at least three months.

A limited test centers for nursing examinations in Indonesia is also an external challenge for health workers who want to work in Saudi Arabia. Today, Indonesia only has one test center in Jakarta that facilitates more than sixty thousand nurse graduates each year from 38 Provinces and 98 Cities. In contrast, countries like India and the Philippines are provided with countless centers in almost all cities.

By the condition, it is time for nurses and educational institutions to move and change. Those obstacles must become an opportunity to encourage more nurses to work in the Middle East. Nurses must be more realistic about the meaning of the profession who should financially and professionally appreciated for their work. Educational institutions must also be more active and not only emphasize on producing graduate resources with a global perspective by adding international language as an introduction by providing a standard curriculum.

In addition, many academic findings and acknowledge that institutions could provide more test centers for nurses who will work abroad are beneficial. Needs a collaboration between an educational institution in Indonesia and testing providers such as Prometric and Pearson Vue to provide more test center in Indonesia, not only in Jakarta but also in other big cities.

Last but not least, the government and private sector should work hand in hand for continuous improvements to achieve resource quality and global insightful human beings. Internal and external factors, as explained above, can be managed into opportunities by changing a better perspective and making a serious effort to maintain the quality of the professional nurse

Akhir Fahruddin S. Kep., MPH, RN
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Akhir Fahruddin S. Kep., MPH, RN

Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) at Elaj Medical Company, Riyadh, Arab Saudi | Head of DSA Review Center |

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