The Field of Nursing in Saudi Arabia


Nurses are an invaluable asset in every healthcare system all over the world. Nurses provide personalized care, instruct patients, and develop nursing care plans. According to the International Council of Nurses (n. d.), “nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups, and communities, sick or well and in all settings.” Therefore, nurses are the bridge between medical doctors and people seeking healthcare services. This paper considers the field of nursing in Saudi Arabia, its critique, and analysis as well as simulation practices.

Historically, Saudi society has been predominantly patriarchal, and women were not given a chance to start a career. However, the first person to move the field of nursing forward was a woman. Rufaida Al-Aslamia is the first nurse in Saudi Arabia, who was born Yathrib before the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (Shabnam, 2018). Her father was a famous physician, and Rufaida worked as his assistant. Since that time, extensive practice and simulation in nursing education have become an essential part of professional training.

Analysis and Critique

The field of Nursing in Saudi Arabia has its strengths and weaknesses. Despite the historical importance of this profession, not so many people in Saudi Arabia are motivated to pursue a nursing career. The first educational training of nurses occurred in 1958 with the support of the World Health Organization (Aboshaiqah, 2016). Because of the accelerated socio-economic development, in the early 1960s, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs initiated programs to improve living standards (Winnet, Furman, Epps, & Lamphear, 2019). These changes led to an increased demand for healthcare and social workers, which was met by expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. However, in 1992 national authorities introduced the policy of “Saudisation” in order to eliminate the expatriate workforce (Alboliteeh et al., 2017). Consequently, this policy resulted in more burdens on the healthcare and nursing systems.

Therefore, Saudi Arabia faces a shortage of nurses because of the fragmented political effort. In 2015 the nursing ratio to the population in the country was 48.7 to 10 000 people in comparison to 118.7 in Qatar and 106.5 in Australia (Hibbert, Aboshaiqah, & Leary, 2017). The shortage of nursing professionals is linked to problems in education and the social image of the domain. Nowadays in Saudi Arabia, there is no distinction between an academic and clinical nursing career. Moreover, it has been found out that 83 of nurses only hold a certificate and lack practical experience (Alboliteeh et al., 2017). Limited educational opportunities deteriorate the social image of the profession.

On the bright side, educational institutions that offer medical education are incorporating simulation activities in their programs. Saudi medical colleges are investing in the creation of simulation labs and centers to transfer cutting-edge knowledge and skills. One of the studies has revealed that medical doctors have a positive perception of simulation-based educational technologies (Ahmed et al., 2016). Most importantly, it is necessary to introduce these technologies from the very start of the educational process. The simulation will safeguard patients’ safety and increase the quality of medical care.


Having recognized the challenges of the healthcare system, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aims to promote preventive care under the “Vision 2030”. For instance, the Ministry of Health has already identified the attractiveness of nursing and medical support staff as a priority area (Bassi, 2017). Another recommendation is to raise awareness among high school students of the possibilities to pursue a nursing degree. These opportunities should be equally promoted among men and women.

National authorities should consider allocating financial resources to continue empirical research on simulation methods in teaching. The feedback from teachers and students has to be taken into account to enhance the curriculum. Educators involved in simulation activities need constant training. These trainings can be made available through international exchange programs and visits. Eventually, small, consistent changes will create a safe working environment and benefit society as a whole.


Aboshaiqah, A. E. (2016). Strategies to address the nursing shortage in Saudi Arabia. International Nursing Review, 63(3), 499-506. Web.

Ahmed, S., Al-Mously, N., Al-Senani, F., Zafar, M., & Ahmed, M. (2016). Medical teachers’ perception towards simulation-based medical education. Medical Teacher, 38(1), 37–44.

Alboliteeh, M., Magarey, J., & Wiechula, R. (2017). The profile of Saudi nursing workforce: A cross-sectional study. Nursing research and practice, 1-9. Web.

Bassi, J. (2017). Vision 2030 and the opportunities it represents in healthcare in Saudi Arabia. Al Tamimi & Co. Web.

Hibbert, D., Aboshaiqah, A. E., & Leary, A. (2017). Advancing nursing practice: The emergence of the role of advanced practice nurse in Saudi Arabia. Annals of Saudi medicine, 37(1). Web.

International Council of Nurses (n. d.). Nursing definitions. Web.

Shabnam, S., N. (2018). Rufaidah: An ever shining star the first muslim nurse. The Independent. Web.

Winnet, R., Furman, R., Epps, D. & Lamphear, G. (Eds.). (2019). Health care social work. A global perspective. Oxford University Press.