Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Sikhs: Physical Examinations

Generally, Sikh men and women would prefer to be examined by a member of the healthcare staff of the same gender as themselves. However, if this is not practical, they recognise the fact that men and women are equal and can accept being examined by someone of the other gender. This reticence stems from a deep sense of modesty rather than from any gender bias.

During the examination, it is unlikely that a Sikh will remove clothing unless absolutely necessary, preferring instead to expose only that part of the body that needs to be examined. If the part of the body is covered by one of the five Ks (for Amritdhari Sikhs), then be extremely sensitive about the need to remove that item of clothing. For example, examining the head or the abdomen and genitals may require the removal of the turban, headscarf (chuni) or kach. Treat these garments with great respect and keep them safe. Do not put them on the floor or close to anyone's feet; this is a grave insult.

If the examination requires a patient to wear a hospital gown, ensure that it is long enough to reach the ankles and does not gape at the back. Allow a patient to wear a shawl or dressing gown over the top, and to keep their ritual items of clothing with them.