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Australia is a vast country with diverse people, perspectives and celebrations that nurses need to be aware of when providing care. When we focus on inclusive and accessible care at the core of our profession, it is important to be aware of situations where we may need to deviate from the norm to ensure culturally appropriate care.
For nurses and community members who celebrate Ramadan, the way we work and live changes for a period of 29-30 days each year. The celebration means that to best support our colleagues and community, the way we approach care must change.
In 2023, Ramadan begins on the evening of 22 March and continues through to the evening of 20 April. We sat down with Australian College of Nursing’s Policy Strategist Annum Babar to discuss what Ramadan represents and what we can do to support our community during this period.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is an annual religious holiday celebrated by Muslims and is held on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is considered the most sacred month of the year by Muslims, and throughout the period, we fast every day from sunrise to sunset.
There are exceptions – for example, if a woman is pregnant or menstruating, a person is sick or if they are travelling long distances, they are not expected to fast. If you are unable to fast, you typically donate food or money to charity in its place.
The celebration is more than just fasting – it is a period of self-reflection, community, and positivity to take into the rest of the year.
What does Ramadan mean for you?
For me, the blessed month of Ramadan means reconnecting with God and His book the Qur’an. Ramadan is about refocusing on His message and getting away from all other distractions.
As you leave food and water for a few hours each day, you are also meant to leave lying, backbiting, deceit, injustice and distractions. As you starve your body of all these things, you feed your heart and soul.
What are some things we can do to support colleagues and the wider community throughout Ramadan?
I want to say that while I will be fasting and focusing on prayers, I will still be getting all my work done and not expecting people to not eat in front of me or anything like that. Not all Muslims practicing will want or need alterations to their regular schedule throughout Ramadan, but to support inclusive care, it is valuable to ask.
For those looking at what to offer, there are many things you can do. Here are suggestions for what can work for both our colleagues and the greater community.
For colleagues and employees, if you have the chance to, ask if they require any modifications to their working schedule to support themselves. This may seem difficult for nurses working on a rotating roster, but some nurses may prefer to start earlier or later to adjust to their new eating schedule.
For nurses who work in an office or regularly attend meetings, it is recommended that meetings be held primarily in the morning and not held over lunch or other food-related events.
As for consumers, when someone presents to our health systems, particularly in the afternoon, recognise that symptoms may be affected by no food or water intake and may interfere or exacerbate their condition.
For example, health providers should try to avoid organising routine blood tests or procedures for the afternoon during this time, so consumers are not as affected.
Muslims who celebrate Ramadan do so willingly, so I recommend, when possible, to create an advance plan with your consumer to manage their health through their fasting period.
What is your favourite part?
My favourite parts of Ramadan are the many opportunities for connecting with my family and friends. During this month, every Muslim is doing the same thing, going through the same thing.
We are all waking up before sunrise and eating together and then enjoying Iftaar (breaking of fast) together, then praying most of the night together. It’s a beautiful experience.
Annum Babar is a passionate policy expert with a background in economics. She previously worked in the NSW State and Federal Government before working at ACN. Annum has been with ACN as a Policy Strategist since 2018 and is dedicated to consultation as part of developing strong policy.