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Finnish Surgical Nurse working at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Madina. 

Q1. Where are you originally from & how long have you been a nurse?

I'm from Finland.  I graduated from nursing school/university of applied sciences in 2016.

Q2. How long have you been in Saudi Arabia now, and which city are you currently living in?

I arrived to Saudi at the end of November, so 2,5 months. I'm living in Medinah.

Q3. Have you always wanted to work in Saudi Arabia?

Since before I decided to go to nursing school I've had the idea that I want to work abroad and my moms friend had been working in Saudi years ago and told me that would be a good experience. So yes, since I knew it was an option to work here it's been on my mind.

Q4. What were your thoughts/impressions during your first days in Saudi Arabia? Was it what you expected, or vastly different? How so?

I arrived in Riyadh first. At the airport everyone was very helpful and spoke excellent English. I thought language wise it was going to be so easy, well not so much here in Madinah. I spent my quarantine in Riyadh and attended couple of classes at the hospital grounds. Everyone at the hospital was super helpful, you didn't need to even ask for help, you look a little lost and someone will come and make sure you know where you're going and if you need anything.

When I told local people in Riyadh that I was going to work in Madinah, that got few raised eyebrows. When I flew to Madinah I was the only non-Saudi on the flight, so few stares.  At the airport hospital representative was waiting for me with breakfast.  I was the only one arriving at the beginning of December to the hospital so it felt like everyone knew who I was and were super helpful and I wasn't left alone to figure things out but had people show me around the hospital and Madinah since the first day. Madinah is very different from Riyadh but I like it here. A lot of people outside work don't speak English so that makes learning little Arabic a must here.  I would say the welcome has been warmer and easier than I expected.

Q5. Did you find the airport arrival difficult/stressful, or was it manageable?

I stressed about my phone and data plan working in Saudi before arriving here. I found a place to get a sim card right away at the airport, no problem. Another new staff member was on the same flight, we kind of stood out from the crowd, but I was also informed by the hospital rep that someone else was coming with the same car. No problems arriving.

Q6. What was the arrival and orientation process like? Was it helpful in terms of getting yourself set up for life in KSA?

I didn't start my GNO in Riyadh since I was going to work in Madinah and when I arrived to Medinah the GNO group had already started their orientation and classes few days before. I actually still haven't had my GNO yet. I studied some things on my own about KSA before coming here. I have made great friends who have told me so much and anyone I talked to when I arrived told me to just ask if I had any questions, so I have and I have learned a lot from them. I have local people at work and outside of work who are also able to explain customs and I can ask help before going to new situations.

Q7. What was the licensing/registration process like? Did you find it difficult or easy? Was the information and assistance from Profco helpful in terms of licensing?

I had done my Prometric test in Finland and all other applications as much as possible were done by Profco before coming to Saudi.  In Finland the application process took a long time and a lots and lots of paperwork and scanning and stamping. But here I think the heavy lifting was done in Finland already and my iqama came two weeks after my arrival to Madinah and I don't think I did anything else except check that they had my name correctly in the application. Everything else Profco needed me to update or apply for had been done online and Profco sent informative emails with screenshots and step by step instructions if I have needed to do something else.

Q8. What is it like at work? Is it vastly different to working back home, or much the same?

So far the new hospital is only open on very small capacity so it is very different here. I'm not currently working on a surgical ward like I'm supposed to at some point. I'm working at the hospital entrance at "COVID screening". But since we don't yet have patients at the surgical ward, we work were we are needed.

Q9. Do you struggle a lot with the language barrier or is it manageable?

Yes it's a struggle here in Madinah. Very few of our patient or their relatives speak English. Arabic is a very hard language and my pronunciation is sometimes hard for our patients to understand. I hope to get better with time. But for now we have wonderful volunteers here who help with translation if our Saudi nurses are not present.

Q10. What is are the housing and recreation facilities like?

Recreational facilities are still under construction. Hospital grounds have a beautiful park area. My apartment is nice, I will share it with two other nurses at some point but now I'm alone. The housing is close to work which is a pro and a con.

Q11. What is the social life like?

In Madinah there isn't whole lot to do, well probably nowhere at these COVID times. When the restrictions weren't so strict we went out to eat, visit malls, we've been bowling, at the housing we've had movie nights and made dinner or ordered pizza with friends. I've planned trips to Jeddah and Al Ula etc but with new lockdown those have been put to ice.

Q12. Do you manage to get out sightseeing etc. much? Is getting around easy to manage?

We have free busses provided by hospital every day going to malls and supermarkets and when the gyms are open to those as well. Uber works well here as well. Some of my friends have cars so they help out as needed as well. There isn't a lot for non Muslims in Madinah but I've been out a little to see the city and visited outside the mosque.

Q13. How has the decision to work in Saudi Arabia affected you, professionally and personally?

Well it's a new country with very different culture and way of living, new climate, new job, new machines to work with, new policies/guidelines to work with, new colleagues, new routines, new friends, new language. Everything is different either just a little bit or a whole lot. You don't just start a new job where you feel like you don't know anything and someone has to help and guide you. You also start a new life in a place that you don't know anything and need help as well.  So it has affected me a lot, but it isn't a bad thing, you learn something new every day!

Q14. Do you have any tips or advice for other nurses who are contemplating the move to Saudi?

Traveling and experiencing new cultures is always educational and rewarding so do it! Work wise I can't say yet since we are still in opening stages. But be prepared and read ahead and if possible talk to someone in Saudi whose been through moving and starting new in a new country. I think that will make adjusting and culture shock easier. Don't get scared of all the difficult things you'll be facing because you will have people here to help you overcome them and to support you. And once you start to get the hang of things yourself and you'll start to settle it will be so rewarding!

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