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Salma Salim Al Sharhan

UAE Awards

Hamdan Award for Honouring Individuals Working in the Field of Medicine & Health
Personal Details
Born on 1 June 1939 in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Salma Salim Al Sharhan is a legendary figure in the UAE, having served thousands of people through her dedicated and exemplary work in the healthcare domain. She is known as the “Florence of the UAE” in the Arab world after nurse “Florence Nightingale” who laid the basis of the nursing profession in the modern era. She never got married instead; Salma Al Sharhan devoted herself to helping people and easing their sufferings extending to over 52 years. The Founding President of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, supported her and urged the young Emirati women to follow in her footsteps and engage in nursing as an extraordinary profession.
Academic Background
Salma Al Sharhan didn’t attend any nursing institute or a nursing faculty, but was taught by senior doctors who helped her understand the various aspects of the profession and obtain the necessary training and hone her skills.
Her decision to choose nursing as a profession to serve the country is of immense importance considering the fact that there are only a handful of national women nurses in the UAE at the present time.
Approximately 3% of the UAE nursing workforce is currently nationals.
Her career started in 1955 when she was chosen by a pharmacist doctor in Ras Al Khaimah to help him with his work in the only pharmacy available in the emirate at the time. She was trained to use the equipments available for medical treatment at the pharmacy. Later on, she worked in a clinic for the British Council as an assistant to a British doctor, Fuse. Here, she learned many of the aspects and regulations of the nursing profession.
Later, she joined the first hospital in Ras Al Khaimah - Al Nakheel Hospital - which was established by the British Council in 1961. She is a true unique Emirati citizen and she has a strong faith in the extraordinary message of the nursing profession and its vital role in serving the nation and humanity.
Professional Milestones
Her work as a nurse in the fifties and sixties was not simple as the UAE in general and Ras Al Khaimah in particular was not that well-developed as it is today. Life was full of struggles every day and there were hardly any proper medical services available at that time. She felt that she had to sacrifice herself for the sake of the patients’ comfort and recovery. With the lack of proper transportation, she had to walk on foot to patients’ houses to treat them. During her several campaigns, such as vaccination against malaria, her tours in several regions such as Al Heel, Al Fahleen and Masafi were continuously extended to over a week. Salma won the hearts of hundreds of people with her charming smile and her exemplary patience that gave her the ability to ease the psychological suffering of the majority of patients that she took care of. She was the nurse and the midwife that the people of the region of Ras Al Khaimah depended on. She responded to calls by people knocking at her door late at night requesting for her assistance in child birth and maternity cases. She was distinguished by her humanitarian spirit and tenderness that filled her heart and therefore she had numerous unforgettable humanitarian stances. She provided her nursing skills in the delivery of a baby whose life was at risk as he was born prematurely at seven months, leading to his mother passing away while giving birth. At the time, incubators were not available to nurture premature babies. Utilizing her experience, Salma prepared an incubator out of cardboard, made holes in the wall for ventilation and furnished it with a blanket to keep the newborn warm. She took the burden of caring and ensuring his comfort, she fed him with distilled milk mixed with dates extract through his mouth.
As the days passed, the baby emerged out of danger and survived to live and held high positions in the country without forgetting to visit the only person who stood by his side and helped him when he was most vulnerable and in need of help. She believed in the importance of developing health sectors in and outside the country. She made significant efforts in organizing financial donations to build health centres and clinics in several countries including Somalia, India and Indonesia.
Awards and Recognitions
She was honored by Al Nakheel Hospital at the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah where her picture adorned the hospital’s reception welcoming those coming to work or for treatment, a token of appreciation for her hard work and dedication as a nurse at the hospital for over 40 years.
Hence, Salma Al Sharhan deserves the Hamdan Award for Individuals Working in the Field of Medicine & Health for her contributions in general and nursing in particular and for her commendable contributions to the country as an Emirati nurse for about five decades.