Yemeni nurses – and the suffering they endure

National Yemen

Yemen doctors in al-Thawra Hospital

By YN Staff

Nursing is considered to be one of the most challenging professions for Yemeni women to enter. Difficulties include the decision of whether to abandon her work and marry or continue her job, with the latter entailing finding a man who could accept the fact that his wife would work nights and not be present at home.

Altaf Al-Hababi, a nurse and head of the Women’s Department at Al-Thawra Hospital, said her family did not challenge the idea of her working as a nurse, but added that she had to deal with many comments from friends and neighbors. “Many told me that nursing and marriage would not mix, but I insisted on doing this work,” she added.

According to her, the idea of rejecting marriage to a nurse was much more widespread in the past, and that now many men wouldn’t mind marrying a nurse.

Long work hours and exhaustion are constant challenges facing nurses during their career. As Al-Hababi stated, nurses often feel like they are ageing faster than others and may suffer from various ailments, including liver disease and varicose veins

“In addition, difficult life circumstances and low salaries don’t help them cope with basic needs and expenses, with nurses finding themselves forced to look for extra work, which only increases their suffering,” she added.

Altaf said that nurses’ suffering can mostly be attributed to staff shortages and bad management, which force them to perform only a basic level of services, such as giving injections and conducting check-ups.

The negative effects can extend to the nurse’s family, as her work can gradually take her away from her family, as she may be forced to spend most of her time away from her husband and children. Reports have stated that some nurses don’t know where to leave their children when they go to work and that some are forced to leave their children in the streets until they return home. “Yemeni law has stressed the importance of having a nursery where women work but this has yet to be implemented,” noted a report.

As if the above-mentioned problems weren’t enough, nurses are often harassed by patients and their escorts. According to Al-Hababi, patients tend to blame nurses for all the bad things at the hospital. “We can’t do anything against the patients who do so, as we consider them people who deserve the best – but as for their escorts, we call the hospital security to remove them from the place,” she noted.

Al-Hababi said patients’ and escorts’ pestering of nurses can extend to full-fledged harassment, with some following the nurse wherever she goes. “To mention one example, I remember when a nurse was constantly bothered by one of the escorts for the whole night. At the end of the night, she resorted to giving him a hypnotic injection just to rid herself of him,” said Al-Hababi.

Night shifts can present issues for nurses, and especially those who are married. Altaf said it is mandatory for nurses to take assigned shifts, which sometimes start at 3 PM and last until 7 AM. Such shifts only increase separation between nurses and their families. “In spite of the long hours and the hard work nurses put forth, they aren’t compensated for it and are prevented from taking their annual and regular holidays,” she added.

However, the most extreme problem nurses face occurs when they are turned over to the Legal Affairs Administration for wrongdoing. Altaf said nurses are terrified whenever they hear the name of the administration, and will find themselves stuck for months if they have a case. “What makes it worse for them are reports concerning relations between the Legal Affairs Administration and the National Security Forces and jails, not to mention the investigations which violates human rights,” she stated.

According to Altaf, when nurses hear such things, they simply keep smiling and helping those around her. “Moreover, some nurses hide their problems from their families and so give other employees and supervisors the opportunity to violate their humanity and abuse their rights,” she continued.

Al-Hababi added that that there needed to be female members of the Legal Affairs Administration, to defend nurses’ rights and protect them from attempts at blackmail.