Scottish nurse working in Riyadh since August 2014 tells her story about working as a nurse and living in Saudi Arabia.
What made you interested in working in Saudi Arabia?
I'd always been interested in the Middle East and when I was doing my nurse training. I'd seen the adverts in the back of the journals and this had always appealed to me. So when I had enough experience I thought I'd be ready to travel.
How did you decide on King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh?
I had a look on the website and looked at the kind of things they did, the kind of operations they performed, the big draw for me was the organ transplant - they do a lot of these. Professionally-wise they are really good for your development. Back home in the UK all the transplants are only really done out of certain hospitals, especially in Scotland, it's only really done in Edinburgh. To have that on my CV is a real plus. They also do a lot of other things that I've never seen before. I've also heard from other people that King Faisal is one of the best hospitals.
How did you find the application process?
The paperwork and paper trail that has to be done prepares you because over here everything takes a while. The time taken to get all your papers together actually helped me because it gave me the time to get my head round the fact that I was actually going. There is a lot of paperwork to do but I would say that it is definitely worth it. It is not more than you would expect. In the UK we have a recruitment process and recruitment checks that need to be done. All that is really extra is the visa processing which of course one expects and it was very straightforward.
I felt completely supported by Profco. Lynsey my co ordinator was great, and she was absolutely brilliant. She supported me with my paperwork, she was always free to talk, always answered my emails really quickly. Even when I was getting worried about things she always reassured me, so the support was definitely very good.
Can you tell about your departure and the meet and greet on arrival?
I was petrified getting off the plane in Riyadh. Profco put me in contact with another nurse arriving one hour after me who flew from London and we are still friends now even though we work in different departments.
I had a stopover in Istanbul and I was thinking "do I put my Abaya on now?" I put my Abaya on just before landing in Riyadh. When I got off the plane the hospital representative came and found me straightaway, which was really good. I read books and blogs to prepare myself but I'm not sure that they actually gave me a true representation of what it's really like here. It's much better than one expects. Many of you will want to know about wearing an Abaya. You do have to wear the Abaya, but generally I've not had many problems. It's definitely moving forward because I came here thinking that I would have to cover my hair all the time and that's not the case. I don't have to wear my Abaya in the hospital I just need to have conservative clothing. The Abaya is really only on when I'm travelling. When I go shopping I have to wear the Abaya, but in social situations I don't have to. When you travel to another country you have to abide by their rules, you are doing it to be respectful to their culture. It's not as restrictive here as people think.
When you go through General Nursing Orientation you make friends quickly because everyone is in the same boat. There were 9 of us who gelled really quickly, we all still keep in touch with each other. This support is amazing, just having friends in the same position as you when you start.
Can you tell about the hospital orientation programme?
When you first arrive you get acouple of days just to chill and then you start the General Orientation - this is for everybody, nursing and non-nursing staff. You are taken to the auditorium and given a schedule. There are lectures on housing, saudisation, help with cultural things to mention a few topics.
After this you have the Nursing Orientation, so we got measured up for our uniforms. Then we met our clinical instructors and we were oriented to the department.
I like the location of King Faisal - it's right in the centre of Riyadh and we are right in the middle of everything. My accommodation is in the hospital compound and I like that because I can walk to work in five minutes and in the sunshine that's great.
I live in an apartment block, it's all centred around the pool - it's brilliant and I love it. Two bedrooms, one of them has an en-suite bathroom and then there is another bathroom. There is a communal living room and kitchen. It's super clean, all the corridors are always clean, there is an area below where there are computers and a pool room. You can always sit by the pool and meets lots of different people from all nationalities. It's a really good complex, there are mainly American, Australian, British and Indian nationalities living here -different age groups but it's really good.
I 'm going to send Profco some pics so come back to view this piece again!
Social life and travel:
Since I've been here I've been to four embassy parties, twice to the US, to the French and Australian embassies. You just buy a ticket and go along, you don't have to wear the Abaya because you are in the diplomatic quarter. At these parties you meet other people who don't work at the hospital and are not nurses so you widen your group of friends and we meet them at their compounds and go for dinner. All the girls can go out to eat, we just eat in the family section.
There's a lot of diving here, I'm planning to do my PADI while I'm here in Riyadh and then go to Jeddah to do the open water section. Sports-wise on the complex there are tennis courts and the social club runs the keep fit classes, tennis club, badminton soccer and the social club organize lots of trips so you can go out to the desert.
I came out here with the idea of doing something different, experiencing something different and saving some money. When I actually came out here I realized that the world of travel is so open to you from Riyadh it's unbelievable. There are flights to just about everywhere from Riyadh and you can go anywhere you want.
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. Welcome to Saudi Arabia. Contact Profco to assist you!