The majority of Arabs are Muslims. There are a large number of Arab
Christians in Lebanon, Syria Palestine, Iraq and Egypt. Many
Muslim Arabs who are conservative in their religious beliefs do not
eat pork or drink alcohol. They observe a fast in the daytime during
Ramadan. Some Muslim women wear long dresses and scarves to cover the body.
Health practices : Some people wear amulets for protection against the evil eye or will burn incense to keep the evil eye away from the sick. Such practices are declining and are used primarily to avoid illness and harm to a healthy person. Also, prayers and reading from Al Quran or the Bible help give comfort to patients and family members and enhance the patient's recovery.
Arab culture and Islamic religion emphasize maintaining good health,
especially through personal hygiene practices and a healthy diet.
They place a high value in modern Western medicine and have
confidence in the medical profession.
An Arab patient seeing a doctor expects relief from pain and to receive a medication on the first visit. Patients like doctors to explain the reasons for not getting medications and for all laboratory testing. Nurses are perceived as helpers, not health care professionals, and their suggestions and advice are not taken seriously. Doctors may need to explain the nurse's role to the patient. Arabs are not accustomed to the profession of social workers. They rely on their families, other relatives and close friends for support and help.
Generally, both male and female Arab patients and their children
prefer to be seen by male doctors. For pregnancy or gynecological
needs, women prefer a female doctor, however. In Arab culture, women
are reluctant to discuss these concerns with men. It is common for
the family member to stay with the patient and to help answer
questions about the patient's health. In Arab countries, patients are
told only the good news about their disease. In severe cases, the
doctors generally report the seriousness of the illness and its
likely consequences to a selected family member.
Social customs : Elders have a
prestigious status in the Arab family because of their experience.
Family members look to elders for advice. An individual who becomes
sick will turn first to family members, especially elders, for
support, comfort and advice. They may recommend safe, simple home remedies.
Maternal and child health : Most Arabs
consider childbirth to be a female issue only. A woman in labor is
usually surrounded by female relatives and friends. Fathers are not
admitted to the labor room. Midwives play an important role in
prenatal care, delivery and post delivery consultation and are held
in high regard in society and in the medical profession. Arab women
prefer to breasted their newborns. Arabs in general do not approve
having an abortion.
Privacy : Some Arabs are reluctant
to disclose detailed information about themselves and their families
to strangers. They tend to give as little information as possible and
may not give enough for a proper diagnosis. Being conservative, they
may be embarrassed by questions about their sexual relationships and
other personal questions.
Diet : Diet may be an issue for Muslim patients. During Ramadan, many patients resist taking medications or eating during the daytime. Since Muslims do not eat pork, patients may not eat all hospital meals. Some eat only Halal meat (meat from animals slaughtered according to Islamic tradition). Because of shyness, fear of rejection, or lack of knowledge, many Arab patients will not ask for different meals.
A 27 year old Arab man refused to allow a male lab technician to
enter his wife's room to draw blood. She had just given birth. The
staff finally convinced the husband of the need, he reluctantly
allowed the technician in the room. However, he took the precaution,
of making sure his wife was completely covered. Only her arm stuck
out from beneath the covers. For Arab families, honor is one of the
highest values. Since family honor is dependent on female purity,
extreme modesty and sexual segregation must be maintained at all
times. Male nurses should not be assigned to female Muslim patients.
In many parts of the world, female purity and modesty are major values.
When the nurse entered the room of her Iranian patient, she found
the patient huddled on the floor, mumbling. At first she thought the
patient had fallen out of bed, but when she tried to help her up the
patient became visibly upset. She spoke no English and the nurse had
no idea what the problem was. The patient had been praying.
A nineteen-year-old Saudi Arabian woman had just given birth. Her
husband moved into the hospital room with his wife immediately after
she gave birth. He kept the door to the room shut, and questioned
everyone who entered, including the nurses. The nurses were not happy
but felt they had no choice but to comply.
TRANSCULTURAL NURSING CARE OF AN
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