The primary task of phlebotomy is to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the individual from which he or she is to collect a specimen. An essential part of this process is to be aware of and sensitive to the concept that, although it is vital to collect a valid specimen, cultural differences need to be respected and accommodated. A phlebotomist’s review of the cultural norms of Muslim women is well worth the effort in order to ensure proper specimen collection.
A Growing Population of Muslims in America
Any phlebotomist working to implement a larger practice of Phlebotomy in a wide metropolitan area will most likely be repeatedly presented with patients who are of a culture different from their own. For example, in 1988 according to the book entitled Culture Care Diversity and Universality (Leininger, M.M. & McFarland,M.R., 2006), Arabs were the fastest growing minority population in Michigan and the third largest minority group overall in the U.S. Ninety-two percent of Arabs in the world consider themselves Muslim and as of 1999, it was estimated that the Arab population in the metropolitan Detroit area alone was over 250,000. With minority populations such as these, providers of healthcare need to train their employees in cultural diversity and have proper procedures in place to provide quality patient care to all.
Potential Barriers to using Phlebotomy and Achieve Successful Blood Draw
There are several areas where it is possible to see differences between Muslim culture and the general culture that is found in the U.S. Perhaps the most obvious difference is the possibility of a language barrier between Muslim patients and healthcare providers. Female Muslims in particular prefer to have same-sex interpreters. These same-sex interpreters should also be sworn to confidentiality with regard to any communication between the patient and healthcare provider that they may help to assist. Whether or not a translator is necessary, Phlebotomy practitioners should be encouraged to inquire of the patient culturally focused questions to determine how best to maintain their religious and/or cultural practices in order to avoid refusal of treatment (Leininger & McFarland, 2006).
There can be challenges in even attempting to initiate conversations between the Muslim patient and phlebotomist. An article entitled, Muslim Women and the Veil on the Islam Watch website (Asghar, M., 2008, para. 2), notes that Muslim women are to keep their gaze lowered in order to “guard their modesty.” Once again, healthcare providers need to be properly trained and follow effective procedures in order to facilitate the best possible communication between patient and provider which is so vital in a healthcare setting. In this type of situation, understanding that eye contact with Muslim women should be avoided will go a long way to avoid the possibility of offending a female patient, and perhaps offending her husband as well.
Healthcare providers who are sensitive to the needs of a Muslim woman may make the difference between her receiving the medical care she requires or having her refuse medical treatment which may be vital to her health. In order to accomplish this, all healthcare providers, phlebotomists included, need to be aware that modesty is of the utmost importance to Muslim females. Muslim women, along with their husbands, prefer that Muslim females are treated by members of their own sex and may refuse treatment if the only option if to receive any type of treatment from a male employee. The author of “American Health Care Professionals Should Respect the Traditions of Other Cultures” in Western Journal of Medicine (Galanti, 2000) recounts a story where prior to a surgery, a Muslim man refused to allow laboratory technicians to draw blood from his wife’s arm. The husband only allowed the procedure to be performed after he completely covered his wife’s body, with only an area of her arm exposed to allow for the collection of her blood.
Across cultures, there are nonverbal cues that should be respected by healthcare providers as well. In Muslim cultures, non-Muslims are to avoid shaking hands with a Muslim of the opposite sex. A handshake should only occur if first initiated by the Muslim. In order to avoid an occurrence of improper handshaking, a Muslim may either put both their hands behind their back or put their right hand over their heart in order to avoid skin contact. In addition, healthcare providers should take precautions to ensure they announce themselves before entering the room of a female Muslim in order for her to properly cover herself (Leininger & McFarland, 2006).
Achieving the Goal of Quality Patient Care
The duty of phlebotomists and all other healthcare workers is to provide the utmost in care in order for their patients to be safe and well. Those in the medical field need to understand that in order to assist in the effective treatment of human beings there are requirements beyond simply focusing on the functions of the body they are seeking to treat.
When healthcare workers possess attributes such as kindness, compassion and a willingness to embrace the differences of other cultures, they can have a tremendous impact upon whether a person recovers and becomes well again or continues to struggle with illness or disease. It should be the primary mission of every phlebotomist to do whatever is necessary to assist in the recovery and wellness of their patients
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