Culture and religion are important factors in how one is perceived by society at large. This sample essay, created by the custom writing services of Ultius, explores the personal experiences Muslims can face in the medical system, and how Muslim perceptions of medicine, society, and culture play into the interactions they may have.
Muslims and medicine
American Muslims in the medical field receive a quality of care standard that is below average. This in many ways had led to American Muslim patients having poor feelings regarding the American healthcare system, in regard to how they are treated and the quality of care they receive in comparison to the majority of other Americans. The understanding of how their religion of Islam, and how Muslim patients’ perceive their religion to affect their health, illness and healing process, and comparing personal experience in the healthcare model and projecting whether or not that is how one would like to be treated – could have the potential to lead to better quality of care for Muslim patients.
Personal experience in contrast to Muslim experiences in medicine
Many people take for granted when seeking medical treatment, the relative ease of maneuvering through a physician’s office. However, those who are in the cultural minority of this country are faced with a dilemma in the healthcare system. Research has shown that those that are of Muslim cultural background receive a standard of medical care that is consistently lower than average (Nelson, 2002). For the specific scope of this piece – it is asserted that should an education and understanding of Muslim cultural backgrounds be applied to diagnostic processes of patients who practice Islam this quality of standard could stand to improve Muslim patients’ perceptions of the American healthcare system; in the same regard, for those who are seeking to earn degrees as medical assistants, this combination of education and application of personal experience as a standard for quality care is essential in providing for patients.
American Muslim views on health
American Muslims are an ethnically diverse cultural group. Consisting of different races, all bound together by the common thread of the practices of Islam – American Muslim culture consists of racial groups including, but limited to: African Americans, South Asians, and American Arabs (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011). Similar to Christianity, although Muslims all worship the same God, and in many respects, practice the same religion – there are different ways Islam is interpreted, and in turn, practiced – leading to cultural and geographical differences in teachings and practices of the religion. What does remain constant throughout the Muslim community is the culture’s process of addressing and seeking medical treatment, and how these can all be related back to the tenants of their religion (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011).
Perceptions of health
Muslims’ conceptions of health can be broken down into three man facets: social, spiritual, and physical (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011). Despite the vast number of differing racial groups that make up the Muslim community – what remains the same is Muslims’ view that God is an omnipotent force in their lives regarding their health. As an example, God predetermines who falls ill and who is to be cured from disease or illness. Illness is perceived as a trial by God to prove oneself, and also a punishment. This spiritual perception that Muslims have over their health, affects the way they seek medical treatment for their predestined ailments (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011).
Muslim Americans when seeking treatment for an illness or ailment, will use a more holistic approach to modern medicine such as cancer treatment – as it is more concurrent with their Islamic belief system. Many times, Allopathic medicine is seen as a last resort option, after prayer and other spiritual and holistic means have not cured the individual. This aversion to seeking medical treatment could me linked to the poor treatment of Muslim Americans within medical offices (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011).
Quality of care received by Muslims
As researched previously, many American Muslims express frustration when it comes to how they are treated in the healthcare system. There is a lack of knowledge among practitioners regarding Muslim beliefs, and a burden that Muslim Americans feel to explain their culture to a medical professional – leading to frustration, and often-times resentments towards the medical community for their lack of appropriate care, due to ignorance (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011). Due to the large population of Muslims in the United States, the personal growth and educational enrichment value of learning about Muslim culture gained while researching this piece sheds a great amount of light on the issues that Muslim Americans face while seeking treatment for illnesses in medical offices and hospitals.
Personal experience vs. Muslim culture
Personal experience in the American Healthcare system allows me to navigate through with relative ease. There are certain pitfalls as in any bureaucracy, (insurance, cost) but as far as quality of care is concerned – assurance in knowing that the American health care system will by and large provide a quality of care that is sufficient to cure me of an ailment – has always been inherently known. By contrast, the Muslim cultural view of health makes for more of a struggle when pursuing medical treatment. By further understanding these models and tenants that Muslims follow when seeking medical treatment, American medical professionals will be able to better provide better treatment.
The American society as a whole over the years has become more progressive and open in terms of gender equality, and expressing sexuality in everyday society. Basic tenants of Islamic faith, however, do not support the way modesty has declined as a whole in American society. This creates difficulties for Muslims when attempting to seek medical treatment in the American medical system, and maintain their religious beliefs concurrently (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011). Many non-Muslim-American female patients who seek medical treatment, prefer female attending physicians and assistants, for personal preference reasons. Muslim women however, require female attending physicians out of respect for their Islamic views regarding modesty and privacy. It has been shown that Muslim women will not seek medical treatment at facilities where female physicians are not readily accessible for them (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011).
Americans have the privilege of practicing any religion they choose. Muslims in particular, believe that prayer is an essential part of the healing process, when they fall ill as they believe that illness is largely predestined by God. In many cases Muslims believe that prayer holds a significant amount of ailment healing power. In contrast to Christianity or Judaism, where prayer may be used as a tool to ask for ask for divine assistance in healing (Nelson, 2002).
The Western diagnostic process involves singling out an entity that is harming the host, or the body. The cause can be heredity, environmental, airborne, or countless other factors. In Muslim culture however – illness and disease are seen as predestined events. Likened to, God predetermined who would, and would not fall ill – and who would and would not recover. In contrast to how Western medicine looks at an individual’s reaction to treatments to determine convalescence likelihoods (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011).
When seeking in-patient medical treatment, or if extended hospital stays are deemed medically necessary, some Muslim patients need to take into consideration their dietary restrictions dictated by their Islamic tenants. By again using Christianity as a standard, (as there are no dietary restrictions involved in the religion) one can again examine the dilemmas that Muslim patients endure seeking treatment. By not providing Islamically slaughtered (Halal) food options for Muslim patients, the degree of treatment that the Muslims receive is severely lower than others (Padela, Gunter & Killawi, 2011).
A basic understanding of the Muslim culture and Muslim patients’ needs is vital when providing quality care, as a medical assistant. To examine the struggle Muslim patients endure, from a personal standpoint – I would prefer and expect medical professionals to have a certain understanding of cultural and religious ideals and differences, and how to respectfully diagnose accordingly to such. As a medical assistant, should these requests or religious accommodations not be extravagant – as a medical assistant, there is a professional obligation to maintain a level of quality care for all patients, regardless of cultural background.
Padela, A., Gunter, K., & Killawi, A. (2011). Meeting the healthcare needs of American Muslims: Challenges and strategies for healthcare settings. Washington, DC: Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
Nelson, A. R. Institute of Medicine, (2002). Unequal treatment: What healthcare administrators need to know about racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. Retrieved from website: http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report Files/2003/Unequal-Treatment-Confronting-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparities-in-Health-Care/DisparitiesAdmin8pg.pdf