Inquiry into the interaction between culture and medical practice has gained more ground with the passing years. The advancement in certain studies, such as sociology and psychology, has provided impetus for better understanding of the relationships between these fields.
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The western medicine has been based on scientific inquiry. It relies on research and advancement of scientific methods. Treatment is often based on prove of evidence and diagnosis is purely based on findings considered scientifically sound.
Even then, a flash back into the field of medicine shows a very intricate relationship between culture and treatment. Culture has several bearings on a number of issues, which are absolutely important for the choice of medication. In the first place, culture defines what would be considered a disease in some context.
Furthermore, it determines whether such a disease warrantees the ill person to seek health intervention or not (Setha, 1988).
Culture defines the kind of medication or intervention a person chooses. It also determines the kind of treatment and the interaction between the healer and the sick person.
Evidently, the medical community has come to the appreciation of this vital interaction. It is such understanding, which forms the basis for the development of studies, such as medical ethnography. This deliberate and focused inquiry into culture and treatment is bound to reveal the interconnectivity between these issues.
This liberates both the practitioners and the sick to realize what is at odds in a medical treatment intervention. This way, more holistic approach to the healing process is likely to be practiced. The final result will be achievement of more effective treatments (Ren, Amick, & Williams, 1999).
About 70% of all treatments of sick conditions in developed countries including the U.S.A. take place outside the formal medical practice (Cecil, 2008). This is such an astronomical figure that can help medical care services perform much better.
Any health care service takes place in a constant dynamic context of family and society. The family is usually the primary source of health care even in the situations where people are receiving medical assistance professionally.
A look into the intricacies of treatment and sicknesses suggests that there is an ingrained system mostly unwritten that determines how societies define sicknesses (Ren, Amick, & Williams, 1999). This unwritten norm also determines where the sick will seek remediation of the condition.
Traditionally, many people attended the sorcerers as a solution to complex problems they were experiencing. In fact, in many cases, people associate particular diseases simply as manifestations of deeper underlying fights in the spiritual realms.
The spiritual in this context simply means the soul or power other than the physical or visible aspects. Regrettably, the community has no control over such situations and the need to consult with diviners.
It is not surprising that even at the present day, the poor, middle and the rich classes look for fortunetellers, palm readers, and other kinds of intervention. This is the highest proof that the interaction culture has the methods of healing, which different persons may choose (Cecil, 2008).
The most important setting for observing the sick-healer interaction is the relationship between the clinician and his or her patient. The way a nurse handles the patients offers the best chance for observation of culture and medication at work.
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It is not just the sick person’s culture that counts here, the cultural believes of the nurses are even more vital. It may dictate the kind of diseases that will be disclosed and those ones that will be undisclosed.
It may also dictate what symptoms the sick person is comfortable disclosing. Meanwhile, those symptoms that the sick person is not socially inclined to relay will remain hidden. There are also the issues of culture bound symptoms, which are unique to the kind of society.
These are symptoms more prevalent in some cultures than in others. A quicker view into a society’s perceived cultural belief on these symptoms may save medical practitioners an invaluable amount of energy and resources. The accruing time and resources could be properly scheduled for the benefit of the profession in a different area.
Meanwhile, the cultural boundaries define whether the sick people will seek medical attention at all. People disclose only those conditions that they are not ashamed. As long as they do not feel judged or condemned for being sick by certain diseases, they will be open to search for help. Otherwise, such symptoms are simply muffled (Kleinman, 1980).
The modern approach to Western medicine is based on induction of freshmen medical students to dissections of cadavers. In the primary sense, such an approach handles the human body as a specimen devoid of feeling or societal attachment.
This approach helps the medical students disengage emotionally and practice medicine unobstructed by their emotions. However, it may also lead to a condition where they come to consider the human body as an object. In this case, the medical practitioners are reduced to processors who heal any illnesses on the bodies they work on.
However, this view is dangerous and may lead to many pitfalls. This is the reason why the ethnographic approach to medical practice becomes invaluable (Segal, 1988).
The American health care system has been evolving rapidly. The role of the nursing fraternity has taken a different approach in medical care. This shift has resulted in less patient-nurse interaction. There is genuine fear that this loss of close personal interaction with the sick may negatively impact the level and quality of service.
In any health care system, there are three main paradigms that determine the nature of any such interactions. These are the past accumulated experience of illness, the healer-patient interaction, and the process of ‘healing’ itself. Failure to look at these interactions creates disadvantage for the practitioner.
The popular culture in many societies embodies the provision for self-treatment in which the family provides the main health care service (Ruth, 2003).
The societal view of medicine and treatment is crucial for effective treatment of the patients. It is the hallmark of a good health care system. The scientific community should appreciate and incorporate this valuable lesson into the practice.
The relatively new field of ethnography is most vital for this process of change and transformation. At the very least, young medical professionals must be treated to the knowledge of the value of the interaction between society and effectiveness of medical interventions.
Furthermore, a good healthcare practice has the family, friends and relatives at the center of support. This idea must be appreciated fully if health care system is to be improved (Sue, Fujino, Hu, Takeuchi, & Zane, 1991).
Kleinman, A.M. (1980). Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture. Review Article.Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ren, X. S., Amick, B., & Williams, D. R. (1999).Racial/ethnic disparities in health: The interplay between discrimination and socioeconomic status. Ethnicity & Disease, 9(2), 151-165.
Ruth, E. M. (2003). Distal nursing. Social Science & Medicine, 56, 2317–2326
Segal, D. (1988). A Patient So Dead: American Medical Students and Their Cadavers. Anthropological Quarterly, 61 (1), 17-25.
Setha, M. (1988). The Medicalization of Healing Cults in Latin America. American Ethnologist, 15 (1), 136-154.
Sue, S., Fujino, D., Hu, L. T., Takeuchi, D. T., & Zane, N. W. (1991).Community mental health services for ethnic minority groups: A test of the cultural responsiveness hypothesis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59, 533–540.