Quality of Work Life of Health Care Providers in Saudi Arabia

In Riyadh, the quality of work life of health care providers is not as high as it should or could be, according to researchers (Alhousaini, 2006; Almalki, FitzGerald, Clark, 2012). Almalki et al. (2012) have shown that “30.3% of nurses in Riyadh were not offered any training courses or continuing education programs and 65.9% were offered very short courses (1 to 5 days per year)” (p. 30). Overall, health care providers have expressed dissatisfaction with their work life (Almalki et al., 2012). Likewise, Abu-Zinadah (2006) has indicated that work life in conditions in Riyadh are sub-par for health care providers and could be improved considerably through attention to work hours and other variables. In Riyadh as well as in other regions throughout the Kingdom, a lack of clinical experience can negatively impact a health care providers’ quality of work life. As Tumulty (2001) has shown, the Kingdom is still a relatively young country whose native nurses and health care providers lack sufficient knowledge and experience when it comes to providing quality care on the job.

However, the fact that Saudi nurses are mainly expatriates presents a different set of problems and issues that must be examined. Indeed, the low quality of work life reported by nurses in Riyadh points to a systemic problem associated with the gap between the culture of the providers and the culture of the community where care is administered. Expatriate nurses in Saudi Arabia come from different backgrounds and Saudi culture can often seem like a shock to them as it is not something that they are used to. Given the variety of ethnicities and backgrounds of the expatriate Saudi nurses, it is not surprising that they have different coping mechanisms for work-related stress. Quality of work life is also a highly subjective and relative phenomenon. What may be considered normal working conditions in Saudi Arabia would be considered abnormal elsewhere. For example, an American nurse working in Riyadh might be adversely affected by a non-functioning AC unit in her apartment, which could have a negative impact on her quality of work life. Yet a nurse from South Africa working in Riyadh might be totally unfazed by a non-functioning AC unit. With this in mind, it is important to consider demographics when acknowledging studies about quality of work life for health care practitioners in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, with Saudization becoming a dominant theme in all industries in Saudi Arabia, an understanding of what variables impact quality of work life for Saudi nurses is also important to achieve.

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