Nurses are often pressed into duty working across cultures. Part of the job for any nurse is to ensure that she properly cares for every person, even when that person might be a bit different. This requires a certain set of skills, of course. Critically, people of different ethnic backgrounds and faith traditions can have varying needs when it comes to their care. The goal for nurses is to understand these needs and account for them in order to prove the highest levels of care. Arab Muslims are becoming much more common in the United States than they have been in the past. This population has particular cultural needs that can be challenging for nurses who are not familiar with the culture. Immigration has grown significantly in the United States, and it figures to grow even more in the coming years. With the United States agreeing to take in more refugees and immigration reform on the horizon, it is likely that the country will see an influx of many different kinds of people, including Muslim people. Because of the growth of this population and the sensitive nature of the knowledge needed to provide these individuals with high levels of care, this paper will provide some insight into proper nursing practice in reference to Arab Muslims in the United States.
Much has been written about the things that nurses must know and do to provide a high level of care to the people who are in their hospitals. In particular, nurses can struggle to provide adequate care for Arab Muslim people when those nurses are not trained on the cultural communication and other elements of cultural sensitivity required to effectively treat a Muslim person. Meyer et al (2016) write in their article Nursing Care of Pregnant Muslim Women During Ramadan about a specific situation often arising in the care of Muslim women. Ramadan is the holy month in Muslim doctrine. People are required to do a number of things to adhere to their belief system during that particular month. Likewise, there are rules that Muslim women must adhere to at any point in time, creating something of a double whammy for pregnant women during the holy month. The authors of this article note that of the 3.3 million Muslim people living in the United States, many are women, and many will undergo a pregnancy that takes them into the holy month. The article describes many of the traditions that Muslim people are asked to adhere to during the course of Ramadan. One thing in particular is especially important during this time. It is a Muslim tradition to fast during Ramadan to demonstrate a commitment to the cause. Ramadan brings about introspection on the part of Muslim people, as they consider the role of Allah in their lives and demonstrate that they are willing to resist food in order to demonstrate just how faithful they are. In this article, the authors write about how the Muslim faith has become somewhat practical in the modern times. In particular, the Muslim faith has now granted exceptions to the general rules of Ramadan to pregnant women. If they do not want to fast because they have fears that a fast might put their baby in danger, women are allowed to make that choice. This decision can be controversial, but especially for Muslim women living in the United States where there are more healthcare rights for women, it is routine for them to choose to opt out. Still, some women choose to continue their fast during the course of their pregnancy. The article provides insight into how nurses should deal with this, focusing on the communication, the role of nurses in respecting the wishes of their patients, and other cultural concerns.
The article indicates that concern for the month of Ramadan must be shown by nurses dealing with women making this choice. The authors argue that the choice on whether to fast is ultimately the choice of the woman in question, but the article does outline some of the ways in which this decision is actually made. For instance, a person might decide to fast based upon their own body mass index or upon some of the factors in relation to the risk of their candidacy. The authors suggest that it can be difficult for nurses to handle this situation because they want to apply normal nursing protocols in which the central goal is to reduce the risks of the pregnancy. In a situation where an Arab Muslim woman wants to fast but it is not a smart choice, the goal of the nurse needs to be to inform the woman of the risks and make appropriate suggestions. Applying some pressure but maintaining a respectful distance in the decision is a critical part of the equation.
There are many ways in which this article can be applied to a real-world situation. Imagine a case where a woman in the hospital wanted to fast during her pregnancy, a nurse would be put into a difficult situation. The nurse would first speak to the woman about her choice and figure out whether the choice was being made for religious reasons. From there, the nurse would assess the various factors to determine whether fasting could be problematic. Presenting the information to the patient would be the critical next step. While it may be tempting for a nurse to try and sway or persuade the person in question, the better option instead is to try and provide the information in a way that is unbiased. From there, the work of the nurse is not done. If a woman who is pregnant decides to go on the fast despite the risks, the nurse is a person who has the technical skill to help craft a plan that can work. Periods of fasting while pregnant can be tolerated, but nurses would need to work around this information and use knowledge of this fasting to make other decisions on appropriate care. This situation could apply across the nursing spectrum, too, going beyond pregnant women in Ramadan. If a person is making a choice because of Muslim beliefs, even if that choice might be dangerous for the person, it is the nurse’s job to provide information, attempt to keep the patient informed, and to work with the patient’s decision to ensure that all parts of care the nurse can control are accounted for.
With immigration growing and more Muslim people coming to the United States, any nurse that wants to provide high levels of care must think long and hard about cultural competency. The Muslim faith requires practitioners to make many sacrifices, and these things can be foreign to those nurses who are only exposed to Judeo-Christian culture. The article in question here provides insight into some of the challenges of providing high levels of nursing care to women who are struggling with the decision of whether to fast or not fast during their pregnancy. The smart thing for nurses is to recognize that Muslim men and women have the autonomy to choose what values they want, and even if those decisions are not what the nurse would choose, the nurse should still work to ensure the highest possible care with the decision taken into account.
- Giger, J. N. (2016). Transcultural nursing: Assessment and intervention. Elsevier Health Sciences.
- Henderson, S., Barker, M., & Mak, A. (2016). Strategies used by nurses, academics and students to overcome intercultural communication challenges. Nurse Education in Practice, 16(1), 71-78.
- Meyer, J., Pomeroy, M., Reid, D., & Zuniga, J. (2016). Nursing Care of Pregnant Muslim Women During Ramadan. Nursing for Women’s Health, 20(5), 456-462.