Muslims: Inpatient Care
If a Muslim patient needs admitting to a hospital ward, then some basic criteria must be met to help make them comfortable.
It is a basic tenet of Muslim life that men and women should not mix in public; this is even more important when intimate procedures may need to be carried out or private medical discussions held. Wherever possible, Muslim patients must be admitted to a single-sex ward. Many – especially those of the older generation – would also appreciate being nursed by staff of the same gender as themselves. Of course, in an emergency, any bed is better than none.
The second most important aspect of hospital care to get right is the provision of suitable food for the patient. If a specifically halal menu is not available, then regard the patient as a strict vegetarian. It is important to discuss the issue of food with the patient. Further details of the Muslim diet can be seen in the 'dietary guidelines' section.
Muslims, especially the older generations and women, will generally be quiet and shy on a ward. They will need extensive periods of quiet and privacy to wash, pray and meditate on their condition. They are also likely to have visitors who may come to pray with them, and again privacy will be required.
Many of the routine ward procedures such as taking temperature or blood-pressure readings and washing may be considered invasive. Talk to your patient to establish how they feel; draw the curtains around the bed while carrying out these procedures if that helps them to feel more relaxed.
Like many people faced with pain and trauma, Muslims will find the routine of their daily prayers comforting. Although those who are seriously ill are exempt from the five daily salaat, most Muslims will prefer to continue their salaat if possible.
There is a special format for prayer that can be carried out even while bedridden, removing the need to stand, kneel and bow. This is carried out using special hand gestures instead of the whole-body movements of normal salaats.
Some Muslim patients may need help with their preparation for prayer. Some may request that they are woken up in time for salat ul-Fajr (the first, pre-dawn prayer of the day), or woken during the day if they doze off. They may also need help washing themselves in the required way before praying. If their garments have become soiled, they will want to get changed before prayer and again may need assistance. Draw the curtains around the bed while your patient is engaged in their prayers.
Finally, those patients who are not confined to bed may be happier finding a small room away from the ward to complete their prayers in private. Many hospitals have a quiet room as part of the chapel complex; check to see if it is available and if necessary arrange transport to and from the room for your patient.
In general, Muslims prefer to wash in running water. If possible, allow your patients to use a shower for washing; however, if one is not available, or they are not able to use one, then providing a bowl and a jug of fresh water is a good alternative.
water for ritual washing
As mentioned above, Muslim patients will need to be provided with clean fresh water to complete their wudu (ritual ablutions) before prayer.
When nursing a Muslim patient, especially of the opposite gender, avoid direct skin-to-skin contact, as this is likely to distress them. Wherever possible, healthcare staff should wear disposable gloves, or place a cloth between the patient and themselves. Try to avoid unnecessary contact with a patient, such as shaking hands or patting them.