DEI-Fining Caring for Colleagues

5 South Nurses Areen Mohammad and Karen King-Parke, Clinical Staff Leader

Areen Mohammad and Zozan Abdullah are members of the 5 South team, and both observe Ramadan as a part of their Muslim Faith. While browsing the internet I learned that Ramadan was approaching. Unfortunately, I had only a superficial understanding of the holiday, so I decided to read more about the holiday along with the fasting requirements.  My reading helped me to understand the celebration centers around family and that it is one of the highest holidays amongst those of the Muslim faith.  Additionally, I supplemented my education about the holiday by speaking with Areen. We had a vibrant conversation about the required prayer times, the eating restrictions, her individual enjoyment of the holiday, and her commitment to observing the holiday.  I was also interested in learning what VUMC or I could do to help her practice each tenet of this religious holiday, especially on the days she worked on our unit. After our discussion I was moved to share with my colleagues what I learned so I emailed our staff the following: 
Ramadan is a religious holiday celebrated around the world amongst those who are of the Muslim faith, the holiday begins the evening of March 22nd and runs through April 20th. Observants of this holiday engage in a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community engagement. Our colleague Areen is a member of this community. She will need our assistance to meet the requirements of this most holy of times for her religion. Areen will arrive at 1815 for her shifts and begin to receive reports on her patients. This will leave her the time needed to end the daily fast with sustenance and prayer. 
Please do your best to help accommodate this request. I know you may not always be prepared for a report at 1815 but Areen has agreed to accompany you into the rooms as you wrap up your day and receive a report from you while you are finishing tasks if needed. We will all help by reminding the day shift on the nights Areen works during this holiday. 

Thank you so much for your support!

The staff responded to me with positive comments and commitment to Areen. I later discovered that we had another member of the community that I had not included. I apologized to Zo and sent the following email:
It came to my attention that we have another member of the Muslim Community, Zo, who celebrates Ramadan. Please give her the same assistance we have given Areen. Meaning-please allow Zo to begin her shift earlier so that she can get a report from the day shift. This will allow her to have time to break her fast and do her evening prayers. Zo will give her phone to the SL so that she is not interrupted during prayers. Areen will also continue to give her phone to the SL as she completes her prayers as well.  Thank you all for assisting with this small accommodation so our fellow team members can adhere to their faith requirements.

I also included a note that to let the staff know if anyone else needed accommodations to please let us know so we could try to honor the need. Our team believes strongly that all team members should feel included and supported.

The accommodations worked with the help of our staff, Areen, and Zo because they all adjusted to make sure patients were kept safe. Additionally, our staff and they could show due respect to their religion. Honestly, as a unit, we do our best to respect all faiths such as including Kwanza and Hanukkah in December in our decorations and good wishes. I am sure we miss some opportunities to increase our awareness of needed diversity in situations. However, we do try and are open to making changes.

We all walk through the journey of life together as humans, which is the truest of common bonds. When you work with others who are kind enough to share their culture, religion, or diverse perspectives with grace and understanding a bare minimum to return that kindness is to ensure they are respected and afford an equitable opportunity to thrive here at VUMC.  Ensuring our colleagues could practice their faith allowed for an equitable approach. Both Areen and Zo are amazing humans with the kindest of hearts, I am blessed that Areen took the time to educate me on her faith and one of its most holy of holidays-Ramadan. 

This is how life should work and how our work atmosphere can be if we all just remember to respect one another. 

Again, thank you so much, and could not be more thankful for a team as great as you guys!

Karen King-Parke
Clinical staff Leader
5 South