Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. According to the Islamic faith, the Quran, the sacred book of Islam, was recited to the prophet Mohamad during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month in which people give thanks for the good things in their life (including food and drink) and empathize with those less fortunate. It is a month to practice patience and offer prayers.
It’s important for all healthcare leaders to understand how the celebration of Ramadan impacts their patients. Also, as we work to build equity and inclusion in the healthcare workforce, ACHE of MA’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee is pleased to share this educational list on how to communicate and recognize the holiday with their colleagues.
· Muslims around the world fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting includes food, drinks of any kind (including water), medications, etc.
· According to Islam, all adult Muslims are obligated to fast, with some exceptions for people who are traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or sick, and a few other exceptions.
· Due to fasting, the daily schedule for Muslims may be altered. Iftar (breakfast) is at sunset, which is around 7:00ish PM Eastern Time. To prepare for fasting, some Muslims wake up early for a light meal (Sohour) before dawn.
Date and Duration
· This year, Ramadan starts on the evening of March 22nd. The Islamic calendar (Hijri) is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, and the start and end of the month are determined by the position and shape of the moon in the sky.
· Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days, ending with a three-day feast called Eid.
· The daily meal that Muslims have after fasting is called Iftar. Usually, the family prepares different kinds of food and gathers around the meal. Iftar is a reason for families to visit each other and have the Iftar meal together.
· Adult Muslims usually gather to participate in a group prayer (Taraweeh) after Iftar
Impact on Patients
· Some patients may need to adjust their medication schedule to accommodate fasting. This is especially important in the case of diabetic patients who need to adjust their meds.
· Some patients may request scheduling accommodations: for example, they might ask for an early appointment to go back home afterward to rest.
· Admitted patients may have fewer visitors during Ramadan.
· Patients might request to postpone appointments until after Ramadan.
· No-show rates may be higher during Ramadan.
Impact on Staff
· Muslim staff might request a change of shifts and prefer to work during the evening when they can eat and drink. If you can accommodate that, please do.
· Muslim staff might request time off during Ramadan or Eid.
· Acknowledge Ramadan if you know you have a colleague who is fasting. The proper terminology to use is: Ramadan Kareem, or Ramadan Mubarak (meaning have a blessed Ramadan).
· A message from leadership acknowledging and offering well wishes for Ramadan is appropriate.
· When possible, avoid eating and drinking in front of your fasting colleague.
· Often, when Ramadan comes up in a conversation, the natural response is: ‘’I could not do that” or “that would be so difficult” or “fasting without drinking or water is unhealthy’’. Although this is a natural response, try to avoid saying it. Instead, you can say: ‘’I hope your fasting goes smoothly and easily’’.
· Understand that fasting may affect a colleague or patient’s mood.
ACHE of MA DEI committee member and chair of the Celebration and Spotlight committee, Barbara Schmidt, had a quick interview with Basel Tarab, MD, MHA- ACHE of MA DEI Committee Vice Chair about Ramadan, its significance and how it could impact patients and colleagues. Please watch it HERE.
Basel Tarab, MD, MHA
Patient Advocate- Winchester Hospital
Adjunct Faculty- Boston College
ACHE of MA DEI Committee Vice Chair