Cultural Competency or Patient Safety?
An interesting discussion has arisen here in the UK regarding healthcare providers and the niqab (the full face veil some Muslim women wear) Prime Minister David Cameron stated that it should not be up to the government to decide what people can or cannot wear in a free society. Deftly dodged, David. He did support organizations, such as schools and others, having a dress code though.
There is no current national guidance on this issue and the debate goes on about it in the NHS. The doctor interviewed for the BBC article stated that she removes her niqab when treating patients, as it is "essential" to their care. Given how much we are taught about the impact of non-verbal communication, I think I agree with her. What about patients who read lips due to hearing impairment? What about security issues? How do I know if someone is really my doctor or nurse if I'm unable to view/recognize her face? I can't verify the face with the badge.
We have dress codes in all areas of healthcare. For example in the trust I worked in, we had to be "bare below the elbows," meaning no watches, jewelry or long sleeves. Even wedding rings with stones in them were prohibited. Plain wedding bands were the only exception allowed. This was to minimize risk of infection. We all had uniforms so that we could be easily identified in our role. We had to give up some personal identity in order to assure patient safety. In this light, I feel the niqab is inappropriate while working in a patient care environment.
What do you think?