STORIES
May 10, 2019

5 Tips For Nurses Who Are Fasting at Work During Ramadan

5 Tips For Nurses Who Are Fasting at Work During Ramadan

By Wali Khan

My personal Ramadan journey began fasting at the age of seven and has continued ever since. Now that I am a Registered Nurse at one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation, as the month of Ramadan approaches each year, minor adjustments are made to accommodate my daily routine and long night shifts.

Over the course of my educational and professional career, through trial and error, I have found ways to make the month of fasting truly seem like a blessing rather than a difficulty.

Those who observe Ramadan fast for 17-21 hours per day for an entire month. Nurses who work 12+ hour shifts with no food or drink on top of the already high-stress nature of the job may find fasting to be incredibly difficult.  

Image courtesy of @wali_khann Instagram

Below are some practical ways in which I’ve been able to survive and maximize my Ramadan while working night shifts, ⁣

Top 5 Tips For Nurses Who Are Fasting During Ramadan

1. Communicate with your manager and co-workers about your upcoming fast because they will more than likely notice your low energy levels, your inability to pay attention for long periods due to a lack of caffeine and food, your yawning and even your stinky breath! Give them a heads up about Ramadan,

  • What Ramadan is
  • What you will be doing
  • How long it lasts
  • What it requires of you

2. Plan ahead for your upcoming shift. If you start work at 1900 (7 pm), you will probably pray three or more prayers at work (maghrib, isha, and fajr). 

  • Take time to plan out your worship. 
  • Allocate space and time for your prayers so you are able to excuse yourself, pray and come back. This may mean having someone briefly watch your patients and vice versa. 
  • Communicate! And don’t make excuses. Your staff is more kind, generous and understanding than you may think.

⁣3. Pack nutritious, high-energy foods. As you plan for your worship at work, also plan for your nutrition. Pack enough food for the night but also enough food for suhoor (preparation for starting the fast). Ramadan is a month that is meant to teach self-restraint. Let it do just that. It's only for 30 days. Don't splurge at iftar (breaking of the fast) it will negatively affect prayer and promote sluggish behavior. 

When planning foods, think nutrient-dense foods to maximize efficiency. Don’t forget to caffeinate but also brush your teeth. Bad breath can be offensive. 

I, personally, keep my food choices as simple as I can - some of my “go-to” high energy snack options include, 

Dates - provide quick energy and are also a prophetic food yielding amazing benefits. 

  • Protein shakes (I like to add skim milk and water)
  • Protein bars
  • Nuts
  • Deli meat sandwiches
  • Oats
  • Baked potatoes 

4. Plan ahead for your shift, including prayers. Undeniably work can be unpredictable, but, try your best to have a plan for the whole night. Be mindful of your break at night. Use that time for Quran recitation, dhikr, or even going to the chapel, an empty room and actually making your own Taraweeh/offering extra prayers. It ALL counts!⁣         

5. Be exemplary. Take the extra time to talk to your staff about Ramadan but also be an example of what a stellar Muslim does and how He/She carries themselves. Your character, your etiquette, and demeanor will go a long way. Pack extras and share food with your staff. For example, people love dates,  they don't normally eat them. And you know everyone loves ethnic food so be ready to share the love! 

Image courtesy of @wali_khann Instagram

About Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (sawm) to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad according to Islamic belief. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and lasts approximately 29–30 days based on the sighting of the moon of the new month. 

This is the month where Muslims believe the ultimate mercy is bestowed upon mankind, where sins are forgiven. 

Image courtesy of @wali_khann Instagram

Why Do Muslims Fast During Ramadan? 

The purpose of fasting is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Ramadan is a time for one to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on one's inner self. Throughout human history, civilizations have observed fasting in various forms. Some for the purposes of health and its numerous benefits and others for reasons of spirituality. 

For Muslims observing Ramadan, fasting is seen as a way to physically and spiritually purify and strengthen one's relationship with God and his book (Quran).

There are people across the world that are fasting, not by choice, but because it is their everyday reality. They are living a life of war, poverty, disparity, corruption, and they don’t have a choice. 

When westernized Muslims fast by choice, they get to experience those cramps of hunger, that dry mouth from dehydration, that headache from the lack of our coffee, and we get a taste of what the rest of the world is going through. We gain understanding and we gain empathy through experience. 

During the period of fasting, Muslims are commanded to,

  • Refrain from food and drink (including water), 
  • Refrain from habits such as smoking, ill speech, and any other action that reflects the bad character,
  • Muslims often donate to charities during the month (Zakah) and feed the hungry. 

If you are not a practitioner of the Islamic faith, then undeniably this may seem like a daunting task. If you aren't convinced, I challenge you to try it for a day! 

Ramadan brings with it many interesting conversations at the workplace. For someone who has never heard of fasting that Muslims partake in, this act of devotion may seem peculiar and possibly even self-harming. But studies have shown the remarkable effects that fasting can have on a person's mental, physical, and emotional well being! 

Fasting during Ramadan lasts from 17-21 hours and includes the following,  

  • Depending on where you are located in the world, the period of fasting can last anywhere from 17-21 hours. 
  • No food and no drink. Unlike the trendy intermittent fasting, This means NO water OR coffee. 
  • Muslims have a pre-dawn meal (suhoor) of power foods to get them through the day.
  • Life goes on just like any other day. Prayers, school, work, family; it's all a balancing act.
  • At the time of sunset, the dusk prayer is called ("Maghrib") and it is time to eat ( "Iftar") 

Image courtesy of @wali_khann Instagram

Ramadan Mubarak!

So, whether you are a day shifter or a night shifter, ICU or OR, new nurse or veteran nurse, management or staff, I hope you found this practical advice beneficial. 

Keep in mind that the essence of Ramadan is to develop a stronger consciousness of God in your heart. 

Ramadan Mubarak (Happy Ramadan) to all those observing! May this be the best one yet. 

Image courtesy of @wali_khann Instagram

Wali Khan, BSN, RN is a Chicago based trauma resuscitation & ICU nurse in one of the busiest Level I trauma centers in the country. His writing entails a powerful narrative and perspective on the balance between faith and medicine. Passionate about nursing, faith, community service, he uses his voice on social media to highlight the intersection between the three. As an immigrant and first generation college graduate, his journey entails a story of perseverance, balance, and compassion that students and practitioners can relate to. With a previous career as a personal trainer, his lifelong commitment to health and wellness, he inspires and encourages his fans and followers towards an empowered and healthier life.

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