Healing Traditions: Alternative Medicine and the Health Professions

By Bonnie Blair O’Connor | Go to book overview

Importing an Ethnographic
Perspective to Health Care
Modern ethnography (the decription of culture) strives to understand how a culture or group understands itself, and to accurately represent the point of view of group members, or cultural insiders. This effort entails recognition that worldviews that differ from that of the ethnographer (usually a professional or scholar) are not necessarily less valid, and are equally deserving of respect. Application of this attitude to health care can facilitate the development of more patient-centered and patient-responsive services and providers. The questions that follow offer guidelines for importing an ethnographic perspective to health care settings.
What can I learn from this patient or from members of this group of people about the way individuals and the group define the world, order their concerns, understand right behavior, assess circumstances, define health and illness, establish goals for life and for treatment of illness, etc.?
How can I incorporate the concerns and perspectives of this patient or patient population into the ways in which I structure and deliver health care: shaping of procedures and protocols, office hours, scheduling, waiting room arrangement, furnishings, uses of space, forms of address and conversation, uses of time, inclusion of ethnically significant or valued foods in dietary plans, treatment planning and decisions, etc.?
What can I modify in my own thinking and behavior to facilitate establishment of relationships of trust and mutual respect (e.g., understanding provider education and patient education as two sides of the same coin; understand

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