Speaking at the First UAE Clinical Simulation Conference at Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center at Dubai Healthcare City, United Arab Emirates
It is always exciting to be invited to speak in another country. However going to the Middle East for a novice Westerner seemed fraught with opportunities to commit major cultural faux pas and to cause an international incident. My fears were unfounded; Dubai is a truly international city with over 247 cultures living side-by-side, all speaking English. The local Emirates people make up only 10% of the country’s population. There were 57 different cultures attending the conference.
I was joined by two very famous simulationists as fellow keynote speakers, Dr. Ralph Krage from the Netherlands and Peter Dieckmann, a psychologist and human factors expert from Denmark. We had all worked together before; it was delightful to be with them again, in this unusual venue.
I presented four-hour preconference workshop on writing and review for publication. Ralph and Peter presented a day long preconference workshop on debriefing. They noted that it was very difficult to debrief somebody who was wearing a full abaya, as there was no way to read nonverbal feedback. They also noted that the women wearing veils that covered everything but their eyes also proved challenging for reading non-verbal cues. This was their first experience with this situation and they noted how different it was.
As the conference opened, Peter, Ralf, and I were greeted and had a photo op with several high-level dignitaries in the Dubai government. We were hosted in a special greeting room in the simulation center, lock except for special occasions. (Apparently this was a special occasion!) There were white couches extending down the lengths of the walls on three sides of the room, with small tables with flower arrangements, drinks and snacks available at every couch.
I was asked to speak on “integrating simulation into a nursing curriculum”. This was interesting as there is currently only one nursing program in the country. After speaking, our host presented us each with a small desktop award to commemorate the occasion, prompting another round of photographs. This is apparently a custom.
We discovered that there are many experienced simulationists in the Middle East at this time, with large contingents from Canada and the Cleveland Clinic. It was delightful to hear how simulation is being used and adapted to deal with various cultures. One of the most amazing stories I heard was from the group from SIDRA, in Qatar. They will be training 200 simulationists to onboard more than 2000 new nurses and allied health personnel in a new hospital, soon. What an audacious and amazing idea. They have had plenty of time to plan, so they appeared very calm. I am not sure I would be.
The conference itself was very much like other simulation conferences. But our hosts provided us with a whirlwind tour of the city and a fabulous dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, next to a larger version of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. This was next to the largest shopping mall in the world the Dubai Mall that contains the largest aquarium in the world… You get the idea, the biggest, the best, the newest… These Middle Eastern simulation centers plan on being major players in simulation, on the world stage, in the future. If drive, desire, and the resources to support them are available I think they will be successful.