Many doctors who migrate to Saudi Arabia have little or no knowledge of what is waiting for them. This is especially true for doctors who come via family visa. Doctors who come via work visa are usually informed of the salary, the benefits and sometimes of the nature of the job. Those who pass through recruitment agencies know that they have to pay them (these agencies) a specific percentage of their salaries over a given period.
If you are a non-Arab doctor who is coming under the sponsorship of a relative, you should be aware of the obstacles waiting for you. This is especially hard for doctors who have not yet done their postgraduate studies, i.e., MBBS or MBChB holders. For specialists and consultants, the way could be smoother, as they are highly needed in most hospitals and clinics. If you are a specialist or consultant, you could be fortunate to find a hospital or clinic that is either willing to get you a visa, or pay for the transfer process (which is not easy as I heard, and it could take up to 6 months for this to be done).
So, MBBS/ MBChB holders, what lies ahead? If you have less than 2 years experience as a practitioner, you will be required to do an internship of at least 1 year at any government hospital. At the end of your internship you will get an internship certificate from each department that accepts to take you as a training resident. Bear in mind that some departments would reject your application for internship for one reason or the other. Most often, the reason is that they have reached the maximum of interns required for their department, and they would ask you to reapply later. It is necessary that you pass through the internal medicine, paediatrics, surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics, and Emergency Departments. If possible, you could also do an internship at a Family Medicine Department. After this, you can apply to sit for the Saudi License Examination (SLE). You can get the application form as well as the list of requirements from the office of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties located at Al Ruwais District.
Learn more about the SLE and the books that can help you prepare for the exam by clicking here.
If your wish is to work as a general practitioner, passing the SLE, even with the highest score, is no guarantee that you will get a job in any hospital or clinic. Your application might be rejected because most of the clinics and hospitals usually want Egyptian, Indian, or Pakistani doctors. This is not because they are racist. No. They select physicians based on the nature of patients they get at their institutions. For example, many Indian patients want to be seen only by an Indian doctor or more specifically by an Indian doctor from Kerala. Hospitals and clinics might also turn you down because you do not speak Arabic, as more than 80% of the patients who show up at their facilities do not hear or speak English. Hiring a translator or finding a nurse to translate is not something that most of them are willing to do. And why would they do this, anyway?
If you are planning to continue postgraduate studies, good luck! The path is rough, but it is not impossible to make it. You should be very determined to continue till the end. To start with, certain specialties are reserved for Saudis only. If you wish to join the Saudi Board, you can choose internal medicine, paediatrics, surgery or gynaecology and obstetrics. If one of these is your first choice, then, masha'Allah, you are in for a good start.
For doctors who are determined to continue their postgraduate studies and who do not wish to go through these difficult stages, my best advice is for you to stay in your home countries.
NB: This does not apply to doctors trained in the West.