How an innovative new partnership is expanding culturally responsive care for Muslim patients


Photo: A year ago, Open Path Resources and Hennepin Healthcare partnered to place qibla stickers in Emergency Department rooms, so Muslim patients would know the direction to face for prayer

A young woman suffering from depression and chemical addiction came to Hennepin Healthcare for care and asked Spiritual Care Provider Shukri Salah for help. The daughter wanted to go back to live with her family, but her mother was saying no—she’d had too many chances.

The daughter told Shukri, “If I don’t get back into my family, I don’t want to live.” The mother told Shukri, “I have to push her away.”

“Culturally our community thinks that when a person goes to a mental hospital or is taking medication for mental illness, that they are done and there will be no recovery,” Shukri says.

Shukri spoke to the mother about the hope that treatment could offer and then mediated a compromise—if the daughter stayed on medication and went to a group home first, she would have another chance to live with her family.

Shukri is part of an innovative new Hennepin Healthcare program that partners with a local nonprofit, Open Path Resources, to deepen the culturally responsive care we offer to Muslim psychiatric patients. Shukri and her fellow Spiritual Care Advisor, Imam Abdulrahman “Abuturab” Hashi, offer spiritual care to Muslim patients but their role goes far beyond that. They also spend time with Muslim inpatients in the psychiatric units, support staff as they form a care plan for patients, participate in the discharge process, and provide community-based support to discharged patients and their families.

There are only 12 certified Muslim chaplains in North America, according to OPR’s latest count, so there is a cavernous gap in spiritual care for Muslim patients. Hennepin Healthcare’s partnership with OPR began with a simple but meaningful change in our Emergency Department patient rooms—placing stickers that point Muslim patients to the direction they should face for prayer.

Shukri Salah, Spiritual Care Provider 

“You have to feel like faith can go everywhere with you, too — even while you’re at the hospital.”Shukri Salah, Spiritual Care Provider

The partnership grew from there. Shukri and Imam Hashi became part-time members of our spiritual care team a little over a year ago, thanks to funding from the Hennepin Healthcare Foundation. Last November, this new partnership formed, funded by Population Health.

Salah and Hashi’s presence on the care team builds patients’ and family members’ trust in the medical system—giving patients a stronger hope of succeeding in treatment and reducing their risk of re-hospitalization.

OPR co-founder Michael Van Keulen says this trust is the program’s greatest success. He says when a patient sees a spiritual leader from their faith community as part of their care team, it tells them, “You can better trust the healthcare system. They are listening. They are working so hard to make a positive difference in the community.”

This partnership is unique because it emerges from deep conversations and relationships between Hennepin Healthcare and the Somali community in Minnesota. OPR co-founder Imam Sharif Mohamed says the initiatives grew from the community seeing a need and approaching the hospital: “This is really borne of community saying we’re going to come to better know you, we’re going to seek  to build relationship with you, and in that way we’re going to better understand the changes we want to make together as a shared community. We want you to understand us; we want you to understand our faith, our background, our values in the hospital’s model of care.”

Hennepin Healthcare psychiatrist Stamatis Zeris says he feels lucky to work with our Muslim spiritual care team: “Faith and family is such an important part of mental health for so many of our patients. I am learning much about the interplay between faith, mental health and how to engage the Muslim faith community and patients’ families to prevent re-hospitalizations and reduce barriers to care.”

As for the daughter and mother, Shukri stayed in touch with the daughter throughout her stay in the group home, speaking with her a few times a month. “She is on a path to be back home with her family and, God willing (inshallah), will keep on path of healing and commitment to sobriety,” Shukri says. “I can now show my community that healing can happen with hospital care, that life can start again. We do not have to push away our children when they are in this disease. We can change our thinking and keep our children close.”

Open Path Resources co-founder Imam Sharif Mohamed

“We want you to understand us; we want you to understand our faith, our background, our values in the hospital’s model of care.”





Questions about the program? Please contact Community Health Program Liasion Pat Schaffner at [email protected]

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  1. Linda Larson on May 16, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    Please attend the online Clinical Grand Rounds on June 8th from 2:00-3:00 to hear Imam Sharif Mohamed and OPR co-founder Michael Van Keulen speak. Look for more details in the Scanner and through the Nursing Communication Newsletter.

  2. Anabel De Juan-Gomez on June 2, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    Hello Linda,
    A small group from Saint Louis Park, Park Nicollet team is very interested in participating in the Ground Rounds on June 8 at 2p. Would it be possible to get the link? Thanks much! Anabel
    [email protected]

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