Being a muslim is a challenge. Being a covered muslim provider trying to care for a predominately white community is the most challenging experience I have ever had to deal with. And you know what? I'm not the only one that thinks so-- here is my most recent exchange of advice with a Facebook friend.
Med Student: Hey girl, I hope you're doing well and killin it at school!! I'm about to start my clinical rotations this week iA (God willing) and I've had many people tell me to be careful about wearing a scarf (and even some close family members telling me to take it off for the year) which is understandable considering I'll be in a small town in Mississippi. I was wondering how your rotations have been and if you've had to deal with any issues while interacting with patients or other staff members. I'd appreciate any input
Malaka : Hmmm the best thing I can think of is you know how they say a smile is contagious? Well believe it or not even a hijabi's smile can be contagious and I think it's sooo important for us to stand strong with our religion and take advantage of the tough times we might be facing right now and use that to our advantage to influence the people that think so poorly of Muslims!
If anything the rewards we gain in this life for this very reason are unlimited for the hereafter and of course God knows best but.. just imagine if you run into a racist person that hates Muslims and your smile and sympathy/concern during your examination gets him to think otherwise.. like WOW, you just changed that persons outlook on an entire religion! I'm not going to lie, it's extremely hard especially in the town I'm in now.. I've had someone tell me to take off my hijab because it's making me look ugly, and I've also had someone tell me to go back to where I came from I usually say something smart like well I was born in Georgia and then they just feel silly but I make it up to them and lighten the mood by cracking a few jokes.. by the end of the visit with most patients they are laughing/smiling and overall in a good mood.
I would definitely recommend that you always do a very thorough exam and ask as many questions as you can because the patient wants to know that you care. Once they feel like you care then make sure they know you know your stuff! Take the time to explain why you are assessing cranial nerves or why you are palpating their abdomen. Let them know if you feel this it can mean this, this or that.. I have found that patients appreciate that so much and they always say stuff like "oh wow I had no idea that's what that meant" or explain their lab values to them if you have time, that usually means the world to them. Honestly, just show them you care and you really can't go wrong.
There will always be a few bad apples that will put you down no matter how much you smile and care but some people are just like that with everyone.. I hope this message finds you in good health and I hope it helps! Let me know if you have anything else on your mind, I'll do my best to share my experiences!
Good luck on your clinical rotations!
Med Student: Thank you, that was just the sort of thing I needed to hear. It makes perfect sense, I really appreciate it!!
I hope this piece of advice finds its way to all my struggling muslim sisters! If you need to contact me, feel free to shoot me an email.
Here is evidence that it is in fact possible to get them to look past your attire, pictured below: a sweet Christian friend of mine that I met on my internal medicine rotation.
Thanks for reading.