Shaheen Lakhani PA-C remembers the first time she had to examine a patient under respiratory precautions while wearing her hijab as a bit of a fiasco. Unable to affix the elastic loops of the surgical mask without exposing her earlobes, she went in search of tie-able masks only to find that her unit did not have any on hand - meaning she had to resort to wearing an N-95 respirator mask to examine any patient with flu-like symptoms during that shift.
In most professions hijabi women don’t have to worry about their headscarves interfering in their day-to-day tasks. But medical professionals who regularly consult with patients can often find themselves fumbling with their hijab throughout the workday, as their headscarf can interfere with simple tasks such as inserting and removing their stethoscope without compromising their modesty. Many headscarves are made of thick non-stretch fabric that can become heavy and uncomfortably warm during long shifts, and it’s challenging to adhere to the general principles of how hijab should be worn while also complying with the rules dictating proper operating room attire.
Today headscarves come in many styles, colors, and patterns, but functionality has remained an issue when it comes to hijab and medicine. It is not uncommon for hijabi medical providers to have to take multiple bathroom breaks throughout the day to adjust their headscarves, which interrupts their workflow and can take away from time with their patients. Says Yasmin Aghajan MD, “Muslim women in healthcare are constantly looking for a way to appear professional in today's standards, and wear attire that does not interfere with doing their job. Like any healthcare professional, we just want to do the best for our patients. This means our clothes and uniform should be clean, professional, and functional!”
Empowering Hijabi Women in Medicine
Cultural competence and diversity in healthcare fields is critical as we strive to improve access and quality of care for patient populations, and hijabi providers should not be forced to compromise their religious beliefs or comfort at the expense of their careers. Creating a solution for this problem required a thoughtful approach, an understanding of the religious beliefs associated with the hijab, and collaboration with the women who wear them.
“We wanted to create a hijab specifically designed for Muslim women in medicine,” says Medelita founder Lara Francisco PA-C. “They deserve to feel comfortable in what they’re wearing and be able to do their job without being interrupted to readjust or pin their hijab everytime they have to do a task as simple as inserting their stethoscopes,” she continues. ”My goal has always been to create empowering garments for women in medicine, something purposeful and meaningful that has value for the women who wear it and need it.”
With this vision in mind, Lara and the Medelita team set out to create the very first medical hijab for Muslim women who work in healthcare fields.
Made of proprietary fabric that is lightweight, stretchy, and breathable, Medelita's medical hijab is optimized for comfort and functionality. The streamlined and professional design allow it to be easily secured without slipping, and it can be worn in multiple different styles depending on the wearer’s preferences. The extremely lightweight fabric wicks away moisture and keeps the wearer cool and dry, and provides enough stretch for Muslimah medical providers to easily insert their stethoscopes during patient consultations without requiring constant readjustment throughout the day or compromising their modesty. ”Hijabis wear their beliefs and identity on their person each and everyday – We are present in many careers within the medical field,” says Lakhani. “Having Medelita create a headscarf for us and addressing the particular needs of Mulsimahs in the field of Medicine brings to the forefront the topics of equality, acceptance and the vast diaspora that exists for women in healthcare.”
Giving Muslim women in medicine the tools they need to adhere to their faith in professional settings not only empowers them to embrace their beliefs, but it also helps to advance the discussion around the importance of diversity in healthcare fields. “This endeavor has been an opportunity to not only provide hijabi women in medicine with something they need, but also to learn from them and gain a better understanding of their perspectives. Our medical hijab is simple, comfortable, fitted correctly, and works for all hijabi women - and we’re damn proud of what we’ve accomplished,” says Francisco.
Medelita is giving away a limited number of our medical hijabs in honor of 2019 International Women’s Day on March 8th.