I was recently working in a hospital on a psychiatric ward when I heard staff discussing a Muslim female patient saying she was muttering to herself and repeatedly touching beads. I went to see the patient and realized she was performing Zikr . I was appalled at the staff and the lack of basic understanding of religion and culture. Staff had written notes in her medical file suggesting she was hearing voices and was possibly psychotic. This would have a detrimental effect on her and the medication the doctor would be prescribing her.
The above is very scary and not an isolated incident. It is about time all UK healthcare practitioners had practical training on Islamic culture and rituals. Another main concern with care of the elderly is the Do Not Resucitate (DNR) note on files. This is a legal process to withhold CPR or any other method of life support in respect of the patient’s wishes. Often I have seen this written on patients medical notes without proper consent as the patient did not speak English very well. When the subject of DNR was discussed, the patient could not have understood what DNR meant, so the DNR was agreed, and without the patients family being present.
Aiman Alzetani, a consultant based at Southampton’s university hospitals has called for the development of a national training guide to help staff care for patients with specific religious and cultural needs. He feels the current lack of basic training and information for healthcare professionals across the UK had created “obstacles” for staff and “disconnected” them from some patients. “Unfortunately, as religious and cultural awareness is not currently an essential part of training and development for healthcare professionals, many remain innocently unaware of its importance to some groups in society. It can be a source of frustration for clinical staff when patients do not seem to be cooperating but, in the case of Muslim patients for example, it could be something as simple as someone trying to pass them food in their left hand, which they wash with, instead of their right”.
Patients families need to be vigilant and be more involved in their relatives care to make sure that symptoms written down are true and accurate. Often hospital staff are so busy and are so focused on freeing up beds that they don’t always do a safe discharge. It is imperative to have a safe discharge with family members and make sure all provisions are in place for care in the community.
In London, Camden and Islington mental health and social care trust has launched a project to enhance its staff’s knowledge of Islamic cultures and religions. They will also be looking at prayers on the wards, diet, gender, privacy and fasting during Ramadan and translating this into providing culturally sensitive health care. This is so important and needs to be rolled out across the UK so many misunderstandings can be avoided with basic training especially when it comes to guiding healthcare professionals for any religion or culture which involves sensitive traditions or rituals.
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