Hijabs for patients and medical staff: St. Louis Park hospital makes health care history

Methodist Hospital on Thursday became the nation’s first to carry hijabs in its gift shop. That change was driven by a hospital worker who saw patients struggling with makeshift hijabs to cover their heads.
Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park is selling hijabs designed by Hilal Ibrahim, 24-year-old CEO of Henna & Hijabs. Dymanh Chhoun | Sahan Journal

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ST. LOUIS PARK — In her 10 years volunteering at Methodist Hospital, Hilal Ibrahim noticed some patients were using hospital blankets to cover their heads. Hijabs weren’t available in the hospital, so patients were fashioning their own solutions.

 

“I remember somebody going into labor and it was just so quick,” she recalled. “You’re already vulnerable in that moment. Imagine not having your modesty piece, or what you’re used to around you.”

 

On Thursday, Hilal’s company Henna & Hijabs launched its new line of headscarves for patients and staff at Methodist Hospital, which became the first in the nation to carry hijabs in its gift shop.

 

“We’re really excited to be the first health care provider in the country to be hosting something of this magnitude,” said Anahita Cameron, chief human resources officer of HealthPartners, which operates Methodist Hospital.

 

Jennifer Myster, president of the St. Louis Park hospital, said the first-of-its-kind partnership came from “a lot of people saying yes at the right time” after Hilal brought the idea forward.

Hilal Ibrahim is the CEO of Henna & Hijabs. Dymanh Chhoun | Sahan Journal

Hilal, the 24-year-old CEO of Henna & Hijabs who also works now at the hospital as a phlebotomist, said the scarves are not just for Muslim women, but for anyone who values modesty.

 

She said she designed the headscarves so they could also work for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

 

The hijabs, which are made of a jersey fabric with a “breathable stretch,” are also designed to meet the needs of hospital staff.

 

“A chiffon scarf doesn’t hold well when you’re drawing blood from patients or putting in IVs,” Hilal said. “Typically when I’m picking my scarf, if I can wear it to the gym I can wear it to the hospital.”

 

The headscarves in the gift shop match the hospital’s color scheme, which helps with staff uniforms, Myster said.

 

Cameron called the partnership “Hilal’s brainchild.”

 

“She saw a need and rose to the occasion,” she said. “We’re really excited to support a local woman-owned, woman-operated business in the Twin Cities and to create a really inclusive and diverse environment for patients, members, and our team members.”

 

Myster, who became president of the hospital last year, said Hilal has also helped the hospital meet Muslim patients’ spiritual needs and is now helping with the birth center’s effort to meet diverse cultural needs as patients give birth.

 

“She’s influenced our culture in so many ways,” Myster said.

 

Cameron said that she was proud of the work HealthPartners has done toward creating a “welcoming, inclusive environment where everyone feels valued.” The health care field needs to do its part to decrease disparities for diverse populations, she said.

 

“We can play a huge part in eliminating disparities as it relates to differences of all kinds,” she said. “So hopefully this will be a precedent in that others will follow suit and look for ways to make their health care system more inclusive.”

For Hilal, it’s “really special” to see her line of hijabs in the gift shop where she started volunteering 10 years ago.

“I hope that this will inspire other hospitals to take similar initiatives to really reach out to different patient populations,” she said. “I think this is a great framework that other hospitals can look to.”

Becky Z. Dernbach is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times and The Guardian.

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