WASHINGTON – Dealing with patients from different cultural and religious backgrounds, American Muslim nurses have been regarded as a forefront in correcting Islam image and dispelling misconceptions despite increasing anti-Muslim sentiments.
“It’s using the faith to help me navigate those issues. I want to create a good outcome,” Najah Bazzy, a Detroit-area clinical transcultural nurse, told Nurse.com.
“I’m a patient advocate. But my faith is what informs all of that. Being Muslim is what makes me the best nurse I can be.”
Amid increasing negative stereotypes, negative portrayal of Muslims can complicate the medical field, according to Arshia Wajid, founder and president of American Muslim Health Professionals and a consultant at Huron Consulting.
Bazzy is one of the nurses who have been facing troubles in their work from patients who refuse their care after noticing their veil.
Aisha Hasan-Rasool is another Muslim nurse who wears long sleeves under her lab coat and a headscarf.
When patients ask where she’s from, “I tell them Buffalo, New York,” said Hasan-Rasool, RN, WHNP-BC.
Hasan-Rasool is a nurse practitioner at a small women’s health clinic in Duluth, Georgia.
“I haven’t ever had anybody say anything offensive,” she said.
“There are people who have different opinions and beliefs from me on a lot of things. I have to approach them wherever they are, not imposing my outlook on anybody.”
Nevertheless, Arshia Wajid, MBA, MPH, founder and president of American Muslim Health Professional which seeks to “empower Muslim health professionals to improve the health of Americans,” admits that challenges are huge.
“Islamophobia is huge,” said Wajid.
“There’s a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment in the media.”
Working to overcome growing challenges, some nurses choose to offer their patients more care to break barriers.
“You have to spend extra time just to make sure your patients are comfortable with you,” said Samiya Siddiqui, who spent six years in inpatient care at Phoenix Children’s Hospital before working at the hospital’s outpatient GI clinic.
Siddiqui, who was born in the U.S. to Pakistani parents, said she noticed her young patients and families pressed their call buttons more often when other nurses cared for them.
Breaking barriers, she started offering more care to correct misconceptions about her faith and hijab.
“Some of the patients are afraid when they see someone with a headscarf,” said Zainub Rasheed, RN, who works at Florida Hospital in Tampa.
“They think automatically that you’re a terrorist.”
Yet, the presence of Muslim nurses in hospitals can prove very helpful in many cases, where cultural differences pose as a barrier.
Shazia Memon works in a pediatric intensive care unit at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Family Children’s Hospital in Spanish Harlem.
In many cases, she senses relief in her Muslim patients and families when she introduces herself as their nurse.
When a child is beyond recovery and physicians talk to the families about turning off life support, the family might say, “We don’t want to let go, we want to leave it in God’s hands,” she said.
“A lot of nurses have a hard time understanding that. But I understand that faith in God. I don’t know what I myself would do.”
“That’s when I need an imam (a Muslim spiritual leader),” she said.