Physicians at several medical universities and hospitals in Michigan published recommendations in the British Journal of Dermatology for dermatologists caring for Muslim women who wear a hijab, a head-covering that leaves only the face exposed. By educating dermatologists, the study authors aimed to remove cultural barriers that may impede quality healthcare for Muslim women.

The key points they recommend that clinicians follow are to:

  • Address the hijab in a respectful manner.
    • For example, refer to it as a “headscarf” or “veil.”
  • Ask the patient whether they prefer a man vs women healthcare provider, including support staff and trainees, if possible.
  • Place the patient in a room on the perimeter of the clinic, decreasing accidental exposure if the door happens to be open.
  • Arrange exam rooms so that patients are not seated directly in front of the door.
  • Before seeing the patient, notify staff that the patient wears a hijab to allow for a smooth transition of care.
    • This can be done via notes in the patient’s chart or on the door of the patient’s room.
  • For men who provide care to Muslim women:
    • Assess the patient’s comfort level with removing her hijab during the visit. Some patients are comfortable removing the hijab for the entire exam while others are only comfortable removing it when necessary.
    • See if the hijab can be loosened without needing to fully remove it.
    • Consider ways to examine areas of the patient’s body without having to remove all of her clothing.
    • Providing a thorough explanation of why an area of the body needs to be examined may put the patient at ease.
    • If photos need to be taken without the hijab on, reassure the patient that the photo is primarily for documentation purposes.
    • If the patient agrees to remove the hijab but seems anxious, offer the option of a female chaperone in the room.
  • Providers should minimize the number of people entering and exiting the room during an exam to avoid the door opening while the patient’s hijab is removed.
  • At the conclusion of the visit, alert the patient that you will be opening the door to exit so she can replace her hijab, cover herself, or move first.
    • The provider can also draw a curtain before exiting if one is available.

“We hope that utilizing the aforementioned recommendations will alleviate anxieties patients may have regarding dermatology visits and ultimately foster high quality healthcare for this demographic of patients,” the study authors wrote.


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Reference

Rehman R, Chabaan A, Hamzavi I, Fahs F, Mohammad TF. The etiquettes of hijab: Recommendations to improve care in dermatology clinics. Br J Dermatol. Published online August 5, 2021. doi:10.1111/bjd.20665