The Qatari nursing world is a profession shrouded with mystery, with many unknown details as to who leads it. To be a nurse, one has to overcome many hardships and obstacles. Although nursing is a humanitarian field that saves millions of peoples’ lives, it is given little appreciation. Nursing is not limited to helping doctors; it also means providing patients with the needed psychological support that helps them recover as soon as possible. Aisha Hammam Mubarak managed to change nursing in Qatar through her distinguished contributions, where she became a nurse at a time becoming a nurse was not an easy matter. So, who is Aisha Hammam?
I am the mother to three daughters. I have worked in nursing for an extended period of my life. I graduated with a major in nursing in Doha in the 1980s. Then I traveled to Ireland to complete my postgraduate studies, where I got six diplomas in different nursing specializations. Although postgraduate studies in nursing were not available at that time, I completed my “postgraduate” studies through diplomas in nursing. I started with studying general nursing and moved gradually to study pediatric nursing in which I studied pediatric intensive care, neonatal nursing, and nursing administration. With every diploma, I got a new job title. I started my career as a clinical nurse, and then I became deputy head of department, head of department, and associate director. As associate director, I have been assigned diverse tasks and greater responsibilities. Praise be to Allah, I was successful in all positions. I got married and traveled to Germany, where I lived for two years. I worked and learned many subjects, and returned to Qatar, where I opened an emergency department for children at Al-Sadd, and then I moved to Namibia for six years.
Can you describe your academic journey more in depth?
I obtained diplomas; one after the other, as there were no bachelor’s degrees available in nursing in Qatar. Later, the University of Calgary in nursing was established in Qatar. On a medical conference, I got to know the director of the University of Calgary in Qatar, and I talked with her about my wishes to have a bachelor’s degree. She asked me to send her my qualifications, and I did. Praise be to Allah, I completed my bachelor’s degree in nursing and then moved to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) to obtain a master’s degree in management and quality assurance in nursing and health sector leadership. I graduated this year, and currently I am applying for a Ph.D. degree in management. I lived in Ireland for a long time, nearly five years to study general nursing. After that, I spent two years specializing in pediatric nursing, and after this long period, I returned to Qatar. While in Qatar, the old Rumaila Hospital was transferred to Hamad Hospital, and I was responsible for opening a pediatric surgery department and equipping it with all required equipment. At that time, there were two departments: pediatric surgery and internal medicine. I started working on the children’s emergency center from scratch, as it was originally a health center. I worked with engineers and Dr. Safwan, may Allah have mercy on him, to establish a system to be followed by the medical staff to provide the required healthcare and emergency services to children who need prompt treatment. After the establishment of the center, I stopped working in 2000; as I applied for early retirement. My children were young, and I wanted to be with them. I moved to Namibia with my husband and my children, to allow my children the experience of living with their father’s extended family as they did with mine. We lived in Namibia for six years, and then we returned to Qatar. I worked at Al-Ahli Hospital for four years, and then I completed my postgraduate studies at the University of Calgary in Qatar.
Have you always wanted to specialize in pediatric nursing?
I was passionate about nursing since I was a child as it was a profession with which I fell in love. My father, may Allah have mercy on him, was not convinced that I would work in nursing because nurses used to wear a short uniform and show their hair. My father was very conservative and did not approve of my work in this field. After my father passed away, my maternal uncle took care of me. I told him about my intention to study nursing, and he agreed, praise be to Allah. I also wished to become a lawyer, only if it were available to take two majors at the same time and become a lawyer in nursing, but that was not available at that time (now it is available). Although nursing is not highly appreciated in our country, it is a lofty and humane profession. I enjoy my job and love my workplace. Currently, I work in radiology and clinical imaging, but I still yearn to nurse children.
How was your experience of opening the emergency center?
I had a rich and inspiring experience, as I was asked to work at this center due to being the only one specialized in pediatric nursing. In the past, this building was a health center, but the staff and I could change it according to the vision and plan set by Dr. Safwan and me, and approved by the executive authority to complete this project. The challenge for me was to achieve that vision on my own. To be honest, in the beginning, I saw the establishment of such a center beyond my capabilities, but with the staff, we were able to achieve the vision, praise be to Allah. We planned the internal layout, which still exists. Unfortunately, we do not have a documented history of such projects carried out by Qataris. When I lived in Germany, I used to see the names of nurses and doctors who did important work on the hospital wall, and I hope that the same thing applies here. It is a pleasure to be regarded as an employee with well-known accomplishments. The only time my work was mentioned was on a site called “Qalam” as I was writing for the newspaper and wrote several books about my life in nursing, death, and currently I am writing a book about the elderly and forgetfulness. The site owners wanted to highlight a Qatari writer, but unfortunately, this project has stopped. There are many Qataris who helped build this country, and had significant achievements, but died with no memories of their work. The only time I encountered the names and histories of some Qataris was through melodies and folk songs during a diving celebration in Katara. This was the only record that immortalized their history, but if you searched for these people, you would find nothing. It is essential to document the achievements of each Qatari to eliminate the stereotypical image of Qataris as lazy people. Through documentation, this image could be gradually changed.
Have you encountered any obstacles in your career?
It is normal to face obstacles everywhere, and I consider them as a source of power. Without facing any obstacles from time to time, I think I will neither learn nor strengthen my personality. I have faced many obstacles. For example, many people oppose you when you are right just to fail you. Sometimes, administrative procedures are the most significant hurdle on your path to success. In Qatar, nurses cannot be promoted unless they have specific certificates, which were not available at that time. That is why I had to travel and study abroad, although I have many diplomas and valuable experiences. At first, studying abroad was easy. After I had my first child, it became difficult for me to move between countries. The diploma I needed for promotion was available in Bahrain, which is the closest state to Qatar. I had to leave my daughter in Qatar to study at the University of Bahrain because it was not allowed to have my child accompny me to the student dormitory. Therefore, I requested to reside in a place next to the university to bring my daughter. Official authorities approved my request. However, it was rejected by an official in the ministry, and I remained in the student dormitory. This was a very challenging period in my life. Weekends were limited to Fridays, so I used to take the 12 o’clock plane leaving for Qatar every Thursday to spend only one day with my daughter. Then, I had to travel back to Bahrain on Friday night to attend the Saturday lectures. I lived in constant frustration and torment due to being distant from my daughter and experiencing a strenuous routine. One day, I decided that this experience is not suitable for me or the life I hoped for, and I did not have to move away from my family, so I returned to Doha, and decided not to travel again to study. After years, my children grew up, I returned to Ireland to complete some of my studies to be promoted, and fortunately, there was no law prohibiting me from living in a private apartment with my family.
Is there a particularly meaningful moment in your career?
The extraordinary moment is not in my career; it is in my life. When I lived in Namibia, I established a mosque, preached and helped many people convert to Islam. It is an achievement that I love and is very proud of, and I hope to do something more profound in the future. Staying at home encouraged me to preach and teach religion. I was studying jurisprudence in the past, but I gained in-depth knowledge, and I began to teach jurisprudence to Namibian women. This encouraged me to build my mosque, where I used to teach. This experience was not planned; it happened by fate. Praise be to Allah for completing this project.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
Firstly, they should search for their passion, strive for it, and never let obstacles stop them. Most importantly, when a woman achieves her goals, she has to master and be the best in it. Most people do not account for a woman’s work until her dream comes true. We have to ensure that we give the required attention and mastery even when our dreams are fulfilled.
- Interview written by Al Anoud Al Kuwari.
- Interview was edited to improve readability and flow.