Opinion

Nursing during Ramadan

Nursing students Zahid Iqbal, Aatikah Kaba and newly qualified nurse Amina Norat reflect on what Ramadan means to them and how they combine it with their nursing practice
Ramadan

As the month of Ramadan begins, nursing students Zahid Iqbal, Aatikah Kaba and newly qualified nurse Amina Norat reflect on what last year's fast meant to them and how they combine religion with their practice

Zahid Iqbal

Zahid Iqbal

Currently, I am on my final placement with Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust and this is the second time I have been on placement for the duration of Ramadan.

This year brings the advent of the longest fast in Ramadan for at least the last 30 years. Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast without food and water between dawn and sunset.

Dawn and sunset

So considering that fasting at the moment means a staggering 19 hours, whats it really like fasting and working? As a student nurse on placement, fasting brings about its own set of challenges but frankly,

...

As the month of Ramadan begins, nursing students Zahid Iqbal, Aatikah Kaba and newly qualified nurse Amina Norat reflect on what last year's fast meant to them and how they combine religion with their practice

Zahid Iqbal 

Zahid Iqbal
Zahid Iqbal

Currently, I am on my final placement with Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust and this is the second time I have been on placement for the duration of Ramadan. 

This year brings the advent of the longest fast in Ramadan for at least the last 30 years. Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast without food and water between dawn and sunset.  

Dawn and sunset

So considering that fasting at the moment means a staggering 19 hours, what’s it really like fasting and working? As a student nurse on placement, fasting brings about its own set of challenges but frankly, there’s no better place to be fasting than at hospital caring for people. Islam promotes compassion, understanding and care at all times, but even more so during Ramadan. The promotion of these values links well when caring for people as a student nurse.   

But since drinking is not permitted, thirst is probably a feeling many Muslims encounter! Surprisingly, the feeling of hunger less so, especially after the first few fasts. 

Dehydration

So what do I do to manage? I sleep when I can and eat when I can and most of all, drink when I can (only on set hours!) During the summer months, dehydration is a real concern so it’s important to stay out of the sunlight and pace yourself throughout the day. 

Yet fasting and working shouldn’t be exclusive of one another, as being able to maintain a normal routine alongside fasting is part of the sacrifice one has to make during Ramadan. 

Individual circumstances

It does however help to have an employer that understands and provides some flexibility. This can be in the form of unpaid leave or amended hours or condensed hours. It all depends on your trust and your individual circumstances. For me, Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust and my mentor have recognised and supported my personal needs and allowed me to condense my hours so that I can be at home with my family a little more. 

Ramadan can last between 29- 30 days and its end is signalled by a festival called Eid-ul Fitr. Muslims celebrate Eid by looking their best, getting together with family and friends and I for one am looking forward to enjoying a celebratory meal! 

Zahid Iqbal is a third year mental health student nurse studying at the University of Bradford


Aatikah Kaba


Aatikah Kaba

‘Can I make you a brew?’ is generally one of the first questions I get whilst on placement. Generally, getting the chance to have a tea or coffee break is much welcomed, but this past month has been a little different because of the month of Ramadan.

I have been met with all sorts of questions from inquisitive staff and patients alike. Comments have included ‘I could never do it’ and ‘Not even water?’ (the answer is no!). Another question that always comes up is ‘Why?. The very simple answer to that is we not only fast to remember the hungry and thirsty all around the world, but what fasting means to us and what it signifies goes so much further than that.

Empathy

It acts as a reminder to us to be grateful of what we have, acts as a means of making our empathy tangible, we learn self-control, we strengthen our bond with God as we spend more time praying and reflecting on who we are as people. And fasting helps us to better ourselves spiritually, mentally, and physically.

There are, of course, exceptions to fasting. Fasting is not required of those who suffer from certain illnesses and need to take prescribed medication throughout the day to stay well, for example diabetes. These Muslims will then compensate for their fasts in other ways such as giving money to those in need.

Challenge

As a student nurse, fasting comes as a challenge, especially since this year, we are experiencing the longest fasts to date on account of the lunar calendar. I have to be honest and say that I was somewhat dreading fasting whilst working this year. The thought of working eight or 12 hour shifts on a ward (sometimes back to back!) seemed impossible.

Being in my first year, there are so many experiences I want to be exposed to and so much knowledge I want to gain to give me the best possible foundation to build my career on. It seemed as though abstaining from food/water was going to turn me into an absolute wreck! But, as the month comes to an end, I have to admit it has been such a smooth ride. Don’t get me wrong, my stomach does well in letting me know it isn’t happy with me, but more often than not, I haven’t even noticed because there’s been so much for me to stay busy with.

If you ever are around someone who is fasting don’t feel guilty (as many do) for eating/drinking - all it does is reinforce our self-control and remind us why we are fasting in the first place! 

Aatikah Kaba is in her first year of children's nursing at University of Central Lancashire

 


Amina Norat 


Amina Norat 

Ramadan for most Muslims is an opportunity to become closer to God, find spiritual peace, and keep in mind those who have to go without food on a daily basis. It is a time in which charity is given abundantly, and for showing thanks for all that God has provided for you and your family. 

Last year, during my nurse training, my placement in the cardiac catheter labs fell during the month of Ramadan. I worked four days a week, working 10 hour shifts. During this month, I prefered to be at home rather than in university accommodation, so I was commuting 40 minutes both ways. 

Food and water

The hardest part of Ramadan, I would say, would be the lack of sleep, as you wake during the early hours of the morning to have your suhoor (breakfast). The lack of food and water did not hinder my performance at work, nor did it compromise the quality of care I gave my patients. If anything, it was a way in which I could engage with my patients, creating a rapport. I made my mentors aware that I was fasting, and they were fantastic in understanding that it was my choice and supported me through it.

During Ramadan, many Muslims may be asked questions about fasting, such as: 'Why do you do this?' and 'Surely you can drink water?' 

Strenghten our beliefs

As an individual, I welcome these questions, to help people understand the reason behind it, and why millions across the globe observe it. 

For me, it is an opportunity to re-evaluate the past year, and make positive changes which will take me through the next. It is an opportunity for me and my family to become closer, and support each other to strengthen our beliefs. 

Some of the benefits of fasting are, first and foremost, the true appreciation for the food that you break your fast with: that initial sip of water, and the food made lovingly for your table. 

Opportunity to detox

Physically, your body has the opportunity to detox, especially with the longer fasts during the summer months. You end the month feeling healthier, and due to the prayers, physically fitter too.

As a newly qualified nurse, I have chosen this career path with my beliefs and values, which include observing the month of Ramadan, in mind. I will endeavour to work with the rest of the team on the ward to ensure that patient safety is uppermost, working within my role to provide the best patient care.

Amina Norat is a newly qualified nurse 


This article was originally published in 2016

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs