Being her refuge in the doctor’s office (for women medical professionals)
Hope this serves as an encouragement to all the women medical professionals reading this! We need you all 🙂
This past weekend, I had the privilege of volunteering at a women’s day event for refugee women from different parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The organization I volunteered with is a Christian non-profit that has been partnering with a local government agency in the resettlement process for refugee families.
A huge chunk of the day included a Q&A session with the refugee women and a panel of Christian women medical professionals and educators. Topics ranged from common hygiene practices in America and where to buy certain products locally to what to expect at a doctor’s visit for women.
Many were familiar with what to expect at an American doctor’s office, yet there were also a huge number who looked unsure. For some women, terminologies like mammogram and pap smear needed to be explained because examinations like these do not exist in their home country. The women at this event represented a good amount of countries that are barely reached by the gospel and are difficult for missionaries to gain access to. However, the harvest is now coming to us. One of the first places for refugees to visit upon their arrival is the hospital. Many women also come over pregnant, so visits to the OBGYN would be necessary. I realized the large amount of refugee women seeking medical advice and care at this moment in history could be God’s way of opening up unique ministry and witnessing opportunities for Christian female medical professionals to engage in.
A huge majority of the women coming from the Middle East, North Africa, and from an Islamic background will request to see a woman physician and have women nurses tend to them. Some are comfortable with what to expect during examinations, but many are uncertain and nervous. During each doctor’s visit, I have personally seen anxiousness, shyness, and uncertainty on the face of a mom who is 3 months pregnant. She came here only half a year ago after fleeing her home country.
If you are reading this and happen to be a women working in the medical field at a location receiving a lot of refugee women, I hope the three points I share below will be of some use and encouragement in helping you become a “refuge” to these women during their short time in the hospital. Who knows, you may be one of the few women around her in this strange country to genuinely show her care and compassion.
These points I list below are gathered from my personal observations and conversations I have had with various refugee women. I acknowledge not all women feel the same way, but many do share similar sentiments.
1. Explaining examinations ( ie. mammogram or pap smear) in ways that help her feel safe and put her at ease.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the first time I heard what a pap smear is I literally freaked out. On top of adjusting to a new culture, trying to understand an examination you know very little about can be emotionally draining. On top of the cultural barrier, there often is a language barrier. This means taking the time and the extra effort to help her understand what will take place. I have seen the tension ease from the mom’s face when the nurse who was assisting us took the time to explain in simpler terms various medical concepts. I understand time can be limited especially with a lot of patients to see, but the extra effort and patience really communicate love and care to these women. It really does goes a long way.
2. Take the opportunity to ask her about her life, her culture, her family, her baby, how she is adjusting to her new home in America etc.
Women relationships are highly valued in many of these refugee women’s countries. I believe when we ask someone a questions and express interest, it communicates a kind of worth to the person we are speaking to. Not all the time, but a lot of the times, because you are a woman AND the person tending to her physical needs, she will becomes quite willing to open up and share more personally. The culture in that part of the world highly values medical professionals, so these women generally respect and express gratitude towards the ones helping them in this area. Some refugees have also shared with me that they are more motivated to share about themselves as a way to practice their English. These questions could potentially lead to something deeper. I pray it WILL lead to something deeper.
3. Ask her if you could pray for her.
The worst thing she can do is say no, and you just move on and its okay. BUT.. what if she says yes? What if that is exactly what she needed to hear? What if she actually wants to be prayed for? What if this question makes her realize you are different from those around her? What if this question communicates a kind of love she has never experienced before? What if this is the first time she has ever heard a prayer in Jesus name? What if you are the only believer she will ever encounter in her lifetime? Wow! how awesome is that?! I won’t say much more, except God blew me away with the number of women from this region of world eagerly wanting to be prayed for in Jesus name.
To the Christian women working in the medical field, your work is so important! As Christians you are a light to those you are serving, and for many refugee women new to this country, you could be their first encounter with Jesus. I pray that being her refuge and comforter for those few minutes in the doctor’s office would lead to something eternal.