Meet Rufaida, world’s first female nurse, surgeon, by Ibrahim Hassan Gimba

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Meet Rufaida, the world’s first female nurse, surgeon, by Ibrahim Hassan Gimba

Rufaida Al-Islamia (also transliterated Rufaida Al-Aslamiya or Rufaydah bint Sa`ad) (Arabic: رفيدة الأسلمية) (born approx. 620 AD; 2 BH), was an Islamic medical and social worker recognized as the first female Muslim nurse and the first female surgeon in Islam. She is known as the first nurse in the world.

Personal background
Among the first people in Madina to accept Islam, Rufaida Al-Islamia was born into the Boni Aslam tribe of the Kazraj tribal confederation in Madina and gained fame for her contribution to other Ansar women who welcomed the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, on arrival in Madina.

Rufaida Al-Islamia is depicted as a kind, empathetic nurse and a good organizer. With her clinical skills, she trained other women, Including the famous female companion of Muhammad, Ayesha, to be nurses and work in the area of health care. She also worked as a social worker, helping to solve social problems associated with the disease. In addition, she assisted children in need and took in orphans, and helped the poor.

Rufaida Al-Aslamia’s emergence as a nursing leader
A charismatic and capable leader, published records testify that Rufaida Al-Islamia, who practised at the time of Muhammad, was the first Muslim nurse. While there is slight controversy about who is “technically” the first surgeon and nurse in history, Middle Eastern countries attribute the status of the first-ever nurse to Rufaida, a Muslim surgeon and nurse.

Rufaida Al-Islamia implemented her clinical skills and medical experience into developing the first-ever documented mobile care units that were able to meet the medical needs of the community. The scope of the majority of her work in her organized medical command units consisted primarily of hygiene and stabilizing patients before further and more invasive medical procedures.

During military expeditions, Rufaida Al-Islamia led groups of volunteer nurses who went to the battlefield and treated the casualties. She participated in the battles of Khandaq, Khaibar, and others.

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During times of peace, Rufaida Al-Islamia continued her involvement with humanitarian efforts by providing assistance to Muslims who were in need.

Rufaidah had trained a group of women companions as nurses. When prophet Muhammad’s army was getting ready to go to the battle of Khaibar, Rufaidah and the group of volunteer nurses went to Muhammad. They asked him for permission “O Messenger of Allah, we want to go out with you to the battle and treat the injured and help Muslims as much as we can”.

Muhammad permitted them to go. The nurse volunteers did such a good job that Muhammad assigned a share of the bounty to Rufaidah. Her share was equivalent to that of soldiers who had fought. This was in recognition of her medical and nursing work.

Rufaidah Al-Islamia Prize In Nursing
Each year, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland at the University of Bahrain awards one student the coveted and prestigious Rufaida Al-Islamia Prize in Nursing. The award winner determined by a panel of senior clinical medical staff members, the Rufaida Al-Islamia Prize in Nursing is given to the student who consistently excels in delivering superb nursing care to patients.