One of our recruits, a young male RRT from Texas, recently completed a contract at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He answered the following questions for us about his experiences.
How would you compare working in Saudi Arabia to working back home in Texas, e.g., do you have the same type of autonomy, is the acuity of patients as high, did you see different conditions or diseases?
I would say the level of autonomy at a Saudi Arabian hospital compared to the level of autonomy at a hospital here in Texas is heavily dependent on two things: In which hospital in Texas do you work and on which ICU do you work.
For example, in the NICU that I am currently working on in Texas, I would say I have a high level of autonomy. In my opinion, my counterparts in other units at the hospital do not enjoy as much autonomy.
I can say that in Saudi Arabia, the respiratory department was very well funded and well respected, and we as therapists enjoyed a very high degree of autonomy. We worked hand-in-hand with physicians to achieve positive outcomes for our patients. It is one of the things I really enjoyed about working at the King Faisal.
I would say the acuity of NICU patients at my hospital in Texas and at the hospital in Saudi were about the same.
What is different is the variety of illness. In Saudi Arabia, I was able to see many types of illness that are extremely rare (Sakati Syndrome, etc.). I gained valuable experience helping these people.
Where were your co-workers from?
My co-workers were from all over the world. Respiratory-wise, my co-workers were from the USA, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. My nursing colleagues were from everywhere — from England to Kerala to Lebanon. I really got to experience many different cultures while I was in Saudi Arabia. This is another thing I really enjoyed.
How did the medical and nursing staff perceive you as an RRT? How did patients and their families perceive you?
I was very well respected as a Respiratory Therapist by the medical staff. I never had any problems and worked well with the nurses, physicians, etc. Patients and families were usually very respectful, as it is part of their culture. Often they would bring gifts, food, etc., for the staff.
How easy was it to communicate with patients and their families without a knowledge of Arabic?
It was very easy for me to communicate, since many times patients and families spoke English, and there was always someone around who knew how to speak Arabic. Also, the official hospital language is English.
Did the orientation make you feel prepared when you arrived?
I felt very well prepared by the department's orientation.
Would you recommend working in Saudi Arabia to your co-workers?
If the coworker has a sense of adventure and a willingness to learn new things, I would definitely recommend it!
Also see this video about the work of RRTs at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre.