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I am a Muslim and a medical student in Australia and am assigned various clinical placements for roughly four weeks at a time. Those placements are in medical facilities (public hospitals, private [Catholic] hospitals, medical clinics, private practices, surgeries.) The university assigns most of these placements and student preferences are not taken into account. A few placements I am expected to source myself, though even then it is difficult to ensure I will be at a place that I know will be Muslim-friendly.

I pray five times a day (approximately 7 minutes per prayer), two to three of which fall during typical work hours and have a roughly two-hour window during which they can be made. What is a professional approach to communicating with supervisors to ask permission/let them know that I intend to pray?

Similarly, I attend the mosque for prayer services on Fridays, an hour long + transport time and would like to know how to ask for time off for this. I would prefer to address this before I start each rotation instead of causing problems or "trouble" on the first day.

Medical students (in these rotations) are not usually given lunch-breaks or other such opportunities where I could make my own prayer, (even bathroom/toilet breaks are often very restricted in these hospital or clinic settings and a colleague must cover and do your work).

The considerations I would like are:

  1. to be professional and courteous to all those around me in each of these visiting rotations,
  2. be proactive and reduce any possible issues with the prayer+mosque,
  3. of course, to be able to pray and go to the mosque.
  • Would your rotation be a normal 8-4/9-5 "job" or is it shift-based(around the clock?) Also, what is the nature of the work you'd be doing? I assume there would be a departmental difference in whether or not it could work, in terms of nature of the tasks etc. – cbll Nov 4 '16 at 12:50
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    I read your post, and the question in my mind is: what if there were a medical emergency just as you are about to go praying? Which takes priority, your patient in trouble or your prayer session? Even if you have someone cover for you during prayer time, there will be times when YOU are the one who is most knowledgeable about the condition of the patient. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 4 '16 at 13:00
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    It also depends how formal those prayers need to be. If this is essentially reflection time, it will be much easier to accommodate it. In the end, nobody can look into your head and check if you're praying or not. If you need to go to a special room each time and perhaps wash up first, it will be much more difficult. To be honest 5 times per day 7 minutes prayer + 5 times per day walking to- and returning from the prayer room + 5 times per day washing up, that's a big accommodation. – user7019377 Nov 4 '16 at 14:48
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    Is "not usually given lunch-breaks or other such opportunities [...] even bathroom/toilet breaks are often very restricted" even legal in Australia? In most of the first world, it's explicitly the duty of the employer to ensure that a specific minimum range of breaks are available, and it is their duty (not the employee) to arrange who'd be covering for someone who has a bathroom break; if there's no such arrangement then the legal result is that noone covers, not that the break can't be taken. – Peteris Nov 4 '16 at 15:02
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    @Peteris I don't specifically know about Australia, but often hospitals have different rules - you can't have a surgeon leaving a patient on the operating table to take a break. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 4 '16 at 23:25
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First off, try to meet your employer half-way.

As Patricia Shanahan commented below, also try to arrange covering for colleagues in exchange for them covering for you.

Anything you can do to work around your employer's schedule will make your employer more likely to work around yours. If you can go to your employer and say, "I have already made arrangements for Bob to cover me on this date and Alice to cover for that one, but I need some help with this one." it will initiative and dedication to your work as opposed to looking like you are using your religion as an excuse for time off.

If you went in with this attitude as an employee of mine, I would certainly not think any less of you. In fact, I would be impressed by the effort you put in.

  • Thank you. Working around their schedule is a priority. Do you think it makes any difference whether or not I'm technically employed by the particular hospital/clinic/physician or not? – user59693 Nov 4 '16 at 12:13
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    Also, try to meet colleagues half way by being willing to cover for them as they will have to cover for you. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 4 '16 at 12:41
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Just be up front about it and ask. There's no need to be overly cautious about these things.

Here in the UK, most larger hospitals have a spiritual-focussed area set aside for quiet reflection. Other kinds of sites might have the same also.

Just ask, you might well be surprised at the openness.

  • Thank you for your response. Would you advise that I be up front about it and ask in an email prior to starting the rotation? Or on the first day? – user59693 Nov 4 '16 at 12:12
  • @user59693 Before, on the day gives people less time to prepare and facilitate, but before means people have a chance to move things if needed and causes less stress. – Draken Nov 4 '16 at 12:19
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    @user59693 - Do you have a student liaison officer or some other contact overseeing your placements and learning opportunities? It might be that talking with your contact may yield some answers - you are surely not the first Muslim to go through medical training.... – Snow Nov 4 '16 at 12:24
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    @Pete There is a student liaison officer for some of the placements, but I am responsible for organising other placements by myself. The university administration has told me before, in no uncertain terms, that any concerns I may have are to be dealt with on my own as the administrative staff "are not Muslim and do not have experience with religious concerns, so in the future you need to ask another Muslim." – user59693 Nov 4 '16 at 12:51
  • @Draken Thank you. What might you advise in saying in the email? I won't have met the supervisor prior to the email and I don't want to give them a bad impression of "neediness". Would something like Dear Dr. X, I'm looking forward to seeing you in x weeks for the rotation in x subject. I wanted to give you a heads-up that I'm a Muslim and pray 5 times a day. Is it possible if I can use an empty space or spare room somewhere for 5-10 minutes to pray? Thank you. be okay? – user59693 Nov 4 '16 at 13:03
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Email outlining your requirements. So long as you keep it reasonable there shouldn't be a problem.

"Dear XXX, I'm looking forwards to being part of the team at YYY starting on 01/01/2017, Please be advised that as Muslim I have religious obligations that must be serviced at various set times. Do you already have protocols in place for this or should I meet to discuss my needs. Regards WWW'

Something similar to that, polite, factual and to the point. They may already have a solution for you, if not, then you can discuss your needs, this will open the dialogue.

I'm not Muslim, but I have travelled a bit on work and always given my religious needs this way. There's never been a problem.

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