For those who are considering working in Saudi Arabia, some excellent sources of information are those who have recently arrived. Following are some tips and observations from 2010/early 2011.
I am doing great, and I think, we are adjusted now. It is really different, but you listen and observe, and you will a find a way to deal with the different cultures. I was lucky I came with a colleague/friend because that helped me have the emotional support while adjusting to the new transition. We met great people at the orientation and we keep in touch. There are many opportunities to meet people from all over the world. You just have to be open-minded and be enthusiastic when you arrive, otherwise you will be in a culture shock.
The nursing practice is a lot different than what I am used, but you just have to follow their policy. We were really prepared by HZA, so everything went well for all of us. One suggestion is if you don't like white scrubs call your unit and ask if color scrubs are allowed. It is very hard to find good scrubs here so bring your own and make sure they are loose, because they won't allow you to wear scrubs that shapes your body. You don't need abaya when you are in the compound or doing orientation, so you can wear your normal clothes as long they fit properly and you are not exposing any body parts. Shopping is good you can find anything here.
I think, I made the best decision coming here, and so far everyone I met feels the same. I do more outdoor activities now than back home, so you will never feel bored. Most of the Saudi people I met are really great and very welcoming. So you will enjoy it if you surround your self with the right people. — Hiddo Dahir, RN- Surgery King Faisal Specialist Hosptial & Research Centre - Riyadh
We're often asked about obtaining off-site housing for married couples (working at the same hospital or just in the same city, but on single-status contracts) or for men on single- status contracts. Here is a firsthand report: "…With the housing allowance, a couple or three guys can chip in and find a very nice place that is affordable. … For couples though, it is not so easy. Affordable housing is not easy to find and when you do it is usually … without A/C, kitchen cabinets or even a kitchen sink. Finding furnished housing is nearly impossible unless it is very expensive. We have dealt with managers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and cleaners — very few of whom speak more than a little English. This part of it has been very exhausting, quite expensive, and more than a little stressful. … So there is an initial investment that has to be made if a couple is planning on staying for a while. Buying a vehicle is also a very good idea — [hospital housing shuttle] buses are good only if you live on a compound. The people we work with — expats and Saudis alike — have been extremely helpful. We could not have done this without interpreters and all the people that scanned their neighbourhoods for vacant housing. It is amazing how much people are willing to help. We have had numerous Saudis and expats deal with people on our behalf in Arabic." —Gordon Robertson, RRT, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"King Faisal is a nice hospital and there is a lot to share and learn here. The culture is different, the people are different, and their perception of things are different, but if you are open-minded and accommodating, it should be fun." — Burhan Dhar, Head-Orthotics/Prosthetics, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"So far having a great time. Work is hard, had to study a lot ... ER is very different from the USA. I would tell your new clients to bring their own cell phone; most will work here with a SIM card. A cell phone is an absolute must here. ... Make sure you bring a party dress ... I did and I will be using it next week. I found having my abaya before I got here was helpful. ... Also, bring GOOD shoes and plenty of socks. A small backpack is handy too for day trips. ... All in all, it's relatively cheap to live here and inexpensive to eat out. …. I will be having a lifetime experience here ...." — Susan Arena, RN, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"This is a great learning and financial opportunity. It's definitely not for everyone ... but my bank account is looking nice. It teaches independence and self-confidence, that is for sure!! One definitely cannot be timid. You must be strong but not over powering, be generous and helpful." — Carol Newbury, RN, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"Bring good hiking shoes if they want to hike in the desert a lot. If they have a camelback, it is a good idea to bring that as well, especially if they are avid hikers. Other than that, you can only be so prepared, just relax and enjoy. Also, the book: Lonely Planet; Guide to the Middle East is not banned here, so bring their own copy from North America if they have room. Copies sell here very fast, and hard to find." — Darlene Douglas, RN, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"Advice for new candidates? Be open ... this culture is drastically different. However, embrace the changes and don't resist them. This will make the difference of you loving vs hating life here." — Jennifer Schroeder, RN, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"I would definitely say to be prepared to be overwhelmed during your travels with going through security many times and then the chaos you may find at certain airports. I have traveled internationally before, but had never experienced anything as intimidating as when I traveled here through JFK airport. ... Also, it does get COLD here [in winter] especially at night. I probably should have brought more warm clothes with me, of course there is always a lot of shopping here so don't worry about under-packing. And there really is no way to over-pack. I haven't seen the deodorant I like here yet, but that doesn't mean its not here. BUT, I have only found one type of tampons and they are rare to see so be sure to pack a supply of those. It may also be good to let people know that they will have a social life where they can and will want to dress normal. ... Of course there is no way to completely prepare for moving to another country like this. Remember though, that your experience is what you make of it. Everyone will have bad days now and then here, but you can really have fun and meet a lot of people too. At times, I feel like life is somewhat of a vacation here..." — Alia Pajak, RN, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"I just signed on for another year! Lots of changes going on here. Some good, some just interesting ;) I am currently working on a committee to begin a chapter of AACN in Riyadh and begin the CCRN examination process. I still work with Magnet and various projects in the unit. I so very much enjoy working in this multicultural environment and getting to know the Saudi people. I can not say it is easy but it has definitely been worth it. I look forward to doing all I can to help it be a better hospital and encourage the new Saudi nurses in their career development. ... Hope all is well in HZA! Send more North American nurses!" — Christine Young, RN, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
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