Finding Balance: How Medical Students Can Thrive During Ramadan

New section

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Observed worldwide by Muslims, it includes fasting from both food and drink from sunrise to sunset while also emphasizing spiritual reflection, prayer, and charity. However, for me, as a medical student, Ramadan presents unique challenges.

New section

New section

Rawaan Khatib, Creighton University School of Medicine

Balancing fasting with study schedules, clinical rotations, and exams can lead to burnout, decreased concentration, and challenges in maintaining academic performance. Additionally, the irregularity of mealtimes and disrupted sleep patterns can further exacerbate these difficulties; therefore, careful planning and support are needed to navigate effectively. Oftentimes, I will wake up before sunrise to eat breakfast and engage in supplemental prayer before the day starts and will stay up in the evening, praying the nightly prayer “taraweeh” until I go to sleep. These additional spiritual activities, while enriching, can compound my already demanding schedule, requiring me to strike a delicate balance between my religious observance and academic commitments.

First, it is important to know that the spiritual emphasis during Ramadan benefits my development as a future physician, and dedicating time to my spiritual growth now will provide benefits later. For example, I focused a lot on self-reflection with the intention to become more attuned to my own emotions and values so I can become a better, more compassionate person and provider. I also engaged in giving charity, or zakat, to support local and international causes that provided medical supplies to communities in need. Not only did this benefit the recipients but also contributed to my sense of fulfillment and served as a personal reminder as to why I chose a career in medicine. Additionally, developing discipline by rejecting food and water while studying for hours on end helped me to reduce external distraction and become a student that accomplished tasks in a timely manner.

To fully benefit from Ramadan, prioritizing self-care and effective time management is crucial to avoid burnout. It's essential to ensure adequate sleep, balanced meals, and regular physical activity throughout the day. Personally, I maintained my pre-Ramadan sleep schedule and tried my best to incorporate supplemental prayers in the morning and evening. I prepared meals in advance to guarantee nutritious options that sustained my studying during the month. I stayed active during the early part of the day by attending school for study sessions and engaging in my regular extracurricular activities. Upon returning home, I took a nap until sunset and continued studying in the evening as needed.

As Ramadan neared its end, I began to feel fatigued, disengaged, and spiritually behind. Despite my desire to dedicate more time to my spiritual goals, overwhelming exhaustion hindered my efforts, leaving me feeling guilty, especially considering the significance of the last 10 days of Ramadan. Recognizing the need for change, I took time to reflect and reevaluate my schedule to better align with my priorities. I allocated specific time slots for spiritual pursuits during the weekend, while reserving weekdays for academic endeavors. This adjustment allowed me to maintain optimal academic performance while re-engaging with the spiritual essence of Ramadan and actively pursuing my goals.

Navigating Ramadan in medical school is made easier with the support of a community. I connected with other students observing the month of Ramadan which helped provide unity, camaraderie, and mutual support. I also reached out to school faculty members who helped provide accommodations and practical support. Together, they developed a network that helped sustain my spiritual and academic efforts throughout the fasting period.

In conclusion, for me, finding balance and having realistic spiritual and academic goals are the most important things when it comes to surviving medical school during Ramadan. I recognized that participating in Ramadan will make me a better physician in the long run and provides many mental and physical benefits. By managing my time properly, scheduling a nap every day, eating nutritious food, and building a supportive network of students and faculty, I was able to enrich my experience and build a strong foundation to continue participating in Ramadan as a future Muslim physician.

Rawaan attends Creighton University School of Medicine in Phoenix. He is interested in diagnostic radiology but is open to learning more about other specialties. Rawaan’s main hobby is traditional Palestinian embroidery called tatreez.

New section


The views and opinions expressed in this collection are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Association of American Medical Colleges.