Patient Care Considerations for the Muslim Population

When working in Saudi Arabia, your patient population is going to be predominantly of Islamic faith. There are specific nursing considerations that therefore need to be made to ensure culturally-sensitive care.

The Muslim population, followers of the Islamic religion, live in almost every country in the world. Islam holds individuals responsible to practice their religion, thus variations are inevitable. These cultural variations mean providing generic culturally-sensitive care for all Muslims is impossible. This blog will provide some basic considerations, which should be used in conjunction with catering to the patient’s personal wishes and needs.

Illness

Due to the Islamic belief that Allah’s will governs every person’s path in life, patients are more likely to display acceptance of ill health. Therefore, how a patient views their life path may also govern their decisions regarding treatment and interventions.

Prayer

One of the Five Pillars of Islam is prayer. These occur five times throughout the day at times that differ, depending on the time of year and location in the world. Patients may ask you for Qiblah, which is the direction of Mecca. In Saudi Arabia, you will find an arrow pointing in this direction in most rooms. When a patient is praying, you must not walk in front of them or disturb them, as they will have to restart their prayers. If it is not urgent, return to your patient once they’ve finished praying.

Washing and Ablution

Ablution is performed prior to prayer, with the face, neck, hands and feet washed clean. Nursing considerations around falls is particularly important here, as patients may be standing on one foot to wash the other in slippery conditions. Patients who are bedbound may perform ablution using special products, which will be available as per your hospital supplies.

Food and Fasting

Halal food and drinks are required for Muslim patients, and may affect medical devices and medications. For example, bovine valves would be used rather than porcine for cardiac valve replacements. During Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and charity, patients may choose to fast from sunrise to sunset. Children, elderly, pregnant women, travellers and the sick are exempt from fasting during Ramadan. However, your patients may elect to participate in Ramadan, if it is not detrimental to their condition. Therefore, you should ensure food and drink is available at breaking of the fast (usually after sunset), as well as early morning breakfasts prior to fasting (usually before sunrise). Medication schedules and oral hygiene may also alter during this time.

Gender

Preferably, female patients should be treated by female healthcare professionals. Patients of both genders may feel uncomfortable with treatment from healthcare professionals of the opposite gender – this should be minimised where possible.

Visitors

Visiting ill family members and friends is an important part of Islam, and large visitor numbers may be present to see your patient at any given time. Ensure a visiting system is in place and inform family of visiting restrictions. This may help to manage the high volume of well-wishers.

Dress and Dignity

Privacy and modesty are of high importance. Always knock before entering a patient’s room or area to allow them and their visitors time to cover up. Females may feel quite uncomfortable and vulnerable without their hair covered, so providing a scarf or material will ease your patient’s anxiety. Some women may also prefer their face to be covered in the presence of men, which should be considered when males enter the room or during transportation. Some males consider their beards to be of great spiritual importance, so minimising the need to shave or clipper during surgery would uphold a holistic approach to nursing care.

Death and Dying

During the final stages of life, patients and their family members will read the Qur’an and pray. Following their death, a patient will ideally be buried on the same day. Minimising your interventions on the deceased and asking the family for their preferences is advisable.

As with all patients, nursing care is customised to provide patient-centred, culturally-appropriate care. Use your colleagues and resources if in doubt – and remember, compassion and a smile are universal.

Austra Health is available to answer your questions and help you decide whether working in Saudi Arabia is the right move for you.