Guidelines for caring for Muslim women who wear a hijab
Doctors at several Michigan medical universities and hospitals have published recommendations in the British Journal of Dermatology for dermatologists who deal with Muslim women who wear a hijab, a head covering that only leaves the face exposed. By training dermatologists, the study’s authors aimed to break down cultural barriers that can hinder the quality of health care for Muslim women.
The key points they recommend clinicians to follow are:
- Approach the hijab in a respectful manner.
- For example, call it “scarf” or “veil”.
- Ask the patient if he prefers a man over a woman, including support staff and interns, if possible.
- Place the patient in a room on the perimeter of the clinic, reducing accidental exposure if the door is opened.
- Arrange examination rooms so that patients are not seated directly in front of the door.
- Before seeing the patient, inform staff that the patient is wearing a hijab to allow for a smooth transition of care.
- This can be done via notes in the patient’s chart or on the patient’s room door.
- For men providing care to Muslim women:
- Assess the patient’s comfort level in removing her hijab during the visit. Some patients are comfortable removing the hijab during the entire exam, while others are only comfortable when necessary.
- See if the hijab can be loosened without needing to take it off completely.
- Consider ways to examine areas of the patient’s body without having to remove all of her clothing.
- Providing a detailed explanation of why an area of the body needs to be examined can make the patient comfortable.
- If photos are to be taken without the hijab, reassure the patient that the photo is primarily for documentation purposes.
- If the patient agrees to remove the hijab but appears anxious, offer the option of having a woman in the room.
- Providers should minimize the number of people entering and leaving the room during an exam to prevent the door from opening while the patient’s hijab is removed.
- At the end of the visit, tell the patient that you are going to open the exit door so that she can put on her hijab, cover herself or move around first.
- The provider can also draw a curtain before going out if available.
“We hope that using the above recommendations will alleviate any anxieties patients may have regarding dermatology visits and ultimately promote high quality health care for this patient demographic,” wrote the study authors.
Rehman R, Chabaan A, Hamzavi I, Fahs F, Mohammad TF. Hijab labels: recommendations for improving care in dermatology clinics. Brother J Dermatol. Published online August 5, 2021. doi: 10.1111 / bjd.20665
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