Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Muslims: Summary

In a hurry? Here is a list of the top tips for making Islamic patients and staff feel cared for according to their cultural needs.


  • Muslims do not encourage men and women to mix freely in public, and for this reason – and to preserve modesty – Muslim patients should not be placed in mixed wards.
  • Muslims – especially women – have strict ideas about modesty in clothing and behaviour. For example, they will be distressed if required to wear revealing hospital gowns. Allow a Muslim patient to wear a shawl, coat or cardigan over the top of their gown if they wish to.
  • The Muslim prayer schedule begins before dawn, and finishes after sunset. There are five salat a day, and before each one, a ritual ablution must be carried out. Some patients may need help to complete their wudu (ritual wash). During Ramadan, Muslims will try to fast between sunrise and sunset.
  • During the Ramadan fast, no food, liquid or medication may be eaten or taken into the body between sunrise and sunset. This might affect medical tests, and will certainly require a revised schedule for giving Muslim patients medication.
  • Muslims have high standards of personal cleanliness, and patients may require help not only to complete their wudu or ritual wash, but also to change their clothes before prayer, if they have become soiled.
  • All food provided for Muslim staff and patients must be from a reliable and certified halal food source, and cooked according to the rules for halal cooking.

healthcare staff

  • It is important to allow those staff who wish to make their salat to do so. Allow time in their schedule for them to prepare themselves with a ritual ablution (wudu) and then pray in a quiet room.
  • If a Muslim member of staff is fasting through Ramadan, then they may need your support. Look out for symptoms of feeling faint and offer to help them whenever possible.
  • Because Muslims are not encouraged to mix with the opposite gender in public, some might feel more at ease if they are allowed to treat only their own gender whenever possible.
  • Sexual matters are kept private in Islam, and so some Muslim staff may feel embarrassment at discussing sexual health with patients.
  • Make sure that halal food is always available in the canteen for Muslim staff.
  • Uniforms may be more revealing than the clothes many Muslims usually wear. Allow staff to wear long-sleeved versions of the uniform if possible, or to cover up with a long-sleeved T-shirt or cardigan. Allow women to wear a headscarf if they wish to.