Indonesian Nurses in Qatar: Career Prospective and Challenges

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By Syaifoel Hardy

Far before working abroad, in the mid of the eighties, the early stage of my career in nursing, I heard a lot about the ‘opportunities’ of Indonesian nurses working abroad. Especially in the Middle East, Arab countries. Like other common Indonesian nurses, I need better life, better income and better career. Though, I knew that Riyals, Dinnar or Dollars were not the only factor pushing my feet to land on foreign land.

One of my juniors was selected. He went and worked in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), through an agency in Jakarta. As the internet was not yet available, sometimes, I received letters from him, told lots of interesting stories that encouraged me more. The beauty of the desert, international community, the generous of Arabs, the fascinating Arabian gold, perfumes and the wonder of electronics in the kingdom, were all the focus of many nurses, he said.

Besides, being there means close to the Holy Land of Makkah and Madinah. Those two places are sacred for the Muslims. Indonesian Muslims are not exception. Many of us, including nurses dream of visiting the place. My friend, a gentleman from Mojokerto-East Java, as mentioned in the letter, also described the hardship being an expatriate in an Arab country. I knew from him, that to work and live in Arab counties,is not an easy decision.
Going abroad, in my mind at that time, was not simple either. There are lots of things to be prepared. One of the very important things is communication. Therefore, if I prepared myself by studying English, it was not because of without having valid reasons. During my days, there were only a few nurses interested studying English as well as having plan to work abroad. though no one denies, English is considered as the window of the world. I knew that in the future, nurses would have to face so many challenges. Not only a language barrier. Cultural, lifestyle, climate and social lifeare some other major barriers to mention. But, for me, studying English before working was the best option.

More than 20 years is now over. The world of Indonesian nursing is completely different. From education system, its levels, job opportunities, mindset, perspectives, till lifestyles of the nurses. Not less than 400,000 nurses are working at present at various healthcare settings, from Sumatera to Papua. Yet, tens of thousands nurses are still wondering where to land their job in the archipelago.

Well, this is not my responsibility as an Indonesian citizen. It is the Government’s who has created schools, education system, curriculum and, of course jobs. However, I feel sometimes guilty to see the juniors are living with speculation. They are holding nursing diplomas in their one hand, with no certain future ahead welcoming them on the other hand.

The Government is not able to accommodate all nursing graduates. Not even 10% of the fresh ones. Likewise, the private sectors. How many hospitals or clinics are able to employ them? This issue is really critical if we just don’t want to produce nursing professionals without proper jobs. The results? Many of them change their profession. Many are frustrated. Even if going abroad is an option, I encounter sometimes, working abroad for them is not their best choice. As if, the Indonesian nurses in Qatar are, for examples, of such situation still in the mid of ocean. Whether they are in the right tract.

Qatar is a rich of oil and gas country. In the recent years, it is one of the business hubs in the Middle East. The 2022 FIFA is another winning position of Qatar which places it as an attraction spot for businessmen, investors and workers. Around 60 Indonesian nurses are presently working in Qatar. Most of them are in the industry.

The Indonesian nurses are, however individuals with unique objectives. Some are eager to continue their career. Many want to do business outside the nursing profession. Some want to quit the job as nurses. Very few who just want to continue to follow their lives. As it is.


I was attracted to apply to work in Qatar not only because financially Qatar was better than the offer from other parts of the world. Also for a change. I was in Kuwait for 3.5 years, from 1993 to 1996. Then moved to Dubai and stayed there for 9 years, till the mid of 2007, went to Qatar.

I thought it was long enough. Dubai was, for me, a good place to social living. I then decided to move. I applied for the job in a major oil and gas company in Qatar, online. Thanks God, I passed the interview.
The company sent me a visa. A long with me, also an Indonesian. We were put at a five star hotel during the interview. Even on the first few days after the arrival, the company again put me in another famous hotel in the country. What I was thinking about their treatment to the nursing profession was: nurses are living very well in Qatar. Like engineers, doctors or managers. Nurses are not cheap!

I learned a lot about Qatar for about a year before going there. Around 30 Indonesian nurses were recruited before I joined. In a small country like Qatar, the 30 numbers are ‘big’ enough to make the ‘sound’ louder. The life of Indonesian nurses was echoing very fast among many Indonesian nurses, both in the archipelago as well as abroad. A hundred and fifty Indonesian nurses working in the UAE, more than 1000 nurses in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, hundreds in the Netherland and many other countries are trying to apply for the jobs in Qatar. Wow…!

The good treatment of the company where I am working reflects the overall treatment of Qatar Government to expatriates. Not only before I came. In the early days of my work, the company offered me loan and some other allowances that I never received either in Indonesia or abroad. These, excluding yearly increment and bonuses. Plus, monthly salary of course!
Within months of working in that tiny country, I felt as if, every Indonesian nurse was rich. Almost everyone has car. Beautiful cars for the average of Indonesian in Qatar, is a usual trend. They can purchase good and expensive electronics, including latest mobile phones easily. I also felt that their lifestyles in Qatar completely change!
I understand all these situations because I compare the remuneration of nurses in Qatar with other states such as in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman or the UAE, is very distinguished. My further curiosity is: are Indonesian nurses in Qatar only looking for money?

Career Development

I continued my study in the graduate and post graduate levels in Dubai. While working I was doing part time study. I believed this was the only way how to enhance my nursing career. Thanks God the plan worked! The evidence was very distinct!

Though I could not say what I have achieved was very successful, but being a senior in the profession, I wanted to share with juniors, wherever I go, work and live. Be in Kuwait, UAE and Qatar. I always encourage nurses to pursue their studies and improve their career plan.
After the first a few months, I started approaching the Indonesian nurses in Qatar by having regular meeting. Mentoring, short-lecturing and training are the focus. All I did was only to make them to become better nurses. The result was really enthralling. I know, to get better result in changing people’s behaviors takes time. A year or two is far from enough.
We used to have gathering in the place where I was living. At least 10 nurses came twice a week. “Great start!” This was in my mind. The first longest training I shared with them was: IELTS Preparatory Program. Then, developed to Communication and Presentation Skills, Writing skills, Technical Writing skills, Academic Essay, etc. Gradually, everyone seemed ‘changed’.

Three years later (Read: now!) more than 50% of the participants study in the Western universities (UK and Australia), both for the degree and post graduate studies. One already completed with an Australian University. One is still doing the masters degree. Three nurses with a UK university. Many have taken some courses in the UK, such as NEBOSH, IOSH and Occupational Health. Up to now, more than 20 nurses are being enrolled with a university in Semarang-Indonesia for post registration program (BSc Nursing). I said to myself: “Wonderful!”

This, I can say, behavior changes. The real investment!

Professional Association

My experience in maintaining an organization was really difficult. Managing people is very hard to do. People are unique in nature. They have different hearts, heads and hands. Something that is good for me not necessary assumed to be good for others. Something positive in my side, might be negative in the view of my colleagues. I have to swallow their opinion at times. I was in some occasions compelled to accept the differences that are against my principle. I understand this is not easy job. These all I experienced abroad since elected as the first President of the Indonesian Nurses Association in Kuwait in 1993.

We tried to convince the nurses that an association would be helpful for the profession. We were still new in Kuwait. Things were running well, though obstacles were uncountable. Meetings, professional and religious activities, seminars and many other positive events were conducted to make our live more colorful in Kuwait.
With the support of a few members of INNAK (Indonesian Nurses Association in Kuwait), we succeeded to complete many useful programs, not only for the nurses, but also public. The beauty of it was INNAK was able to be hand in hand with the Embassy of Indonesia in Kuwait. Since 1993 (150 nurses), up to now (more than 1000 nurses), INNAK is getting better and better with its various professional development program for its members.

The same principle is actually I personally had, to introduce to my colleagues in Qatar in the end of 2007. As expected, when the tea is still hot, people are rush to drink it. I think this what was happening when Indonesian Nurses Association in Qatar was founded. The Indonesian Ambassador (late Mr. Munir), inaugurated the association in November 28, 2009.

Personally, I was very happy with the association that doing more activities relatively even better than the INNA in Indonesia, in our own country, in terms of training, social activities, organizational involvement in public and professional development for the members. Yet, INNAQ is still a baby that learns to creep. So, it is still far from being perfect association without having its own facilities in a foreign land.


Unlike Filipino or Indian nurses, once they go abroad, their objective is mostly will not return to their native place. Indonesians are completely having different atmosphere. Almost 100% of the Indonesian Nurses working abroad is planning to go back home and live with their relatives. Many even want to jump to profession other than nursing.

Recently, the issue of establishing own business is becoming trend among our nurses in Qatar, such as private training and education, building for rent or shops. This type of plan appears because many of us believe that nursing is not able to fulfill our needs. Thus, nursing has no bright future in the country. A sight that I do not fully agree!

To tell the truth, after long years of working abroad, I find very rare chance of getting the benefits like in Qatar. Therefore, though many believe money is not the only thing the nurses are looking for, it is a priority in their future plan, once they resign or retire from the nursing profession. I do not really understand why such idea planted!

Still, there are nurses who accept as true that sharpening their competencies will help them a lot in the future, rather than creating a new career that is completely non-nursing. These nurses can work as lecturer, consultants, trainers or practitioners in Indonesia. Why not?
Unfortunately, the development of nursing in Indonesia is not followed by its quality. So many nursing colleges are established without clear standards. Nursing Acts is in no where about its status. Nursing practice license is without clear guidelines. Training for the nurses as continuing education process is not updated. In the international level, Indonesian nurses do not have idea about their status. Are they the same as Malaysian’s, Singaporean’s, Indian’s or China’s? The majority of senior nurses in the country are still busy with their own professional development and kitchens rather than looking after the profession that already more than 60 years old.

I do not blame the Indonesian nurses in Qatar when they plan to change the profession once back to their home towns due to the above problematic situations. It is too extreme to say that they only need ‘Fulus’ in their job. The reality is, they have family to feed, they need to have house and secure their future because in no way they will have pension after resigning or retirement.

Yes, the life abroad is difficult for the first 6 months! I agree! Language problem, cultural barrier, weather differences, traditions etc. Only a few nurses could not bear with these situations. Stayed for a couple of months abroad, then went back to their Kampongs. Otherwise, most of them are just ‘happy’, being a nurse. Only staff nurse, forever. Jobs description clear, training needs fulfilled, regular income more than enough, children education supported, and most of all, health care insurance is provided. Satisfied!
I support the idea of Professor Emiko of Kyoto University who happened to visit to Qatar just a few days before I wrote this article, that communication between nursing professionals in Indonesia and Government (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the politicians of the House of Parliament) is the best way to bridge the above gaps. At least, to utilize the experienced Indonesian nurses abroad for the education improvement purpose, make use of many doctors of nursing in the country, modify the curriculum so that standardized, and involve the private sectors in their roles of job opportunities for the junior nurses.

Ooopps! I forget about my own position being only as an ordinary Indonesian nurse in Qatar. That I can’t change the world of nursing in Indonesia, just by commenting, criticizing or suggesting on what is happening around the profession, without my doing concrete steps.

Doha, 31 December 2010

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