Coordinating Biomedical and Traditional Therapies
Marbella, et al. (1998) surveyed 150 patients at an urban Indian Health Service clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on concurrent use of Native American healers and physicians. Authors reported that 38% were utilizing the services of a healer, and that 86% of those not seeing a healer would consider seeing one in the future. In this study, greater than 1/3 of the patients received differing advice from the healer and the physician, and they were more inclined to follow the advice of the healer. Only 14.8% of this population shared this information of concurrent treatment with their physician. Respondents indicated thirty tribal affiliations, the largest numbers being, Oneida, Chippewa/Ojibway, and Menominee. This study underscores the need for culturally sensitive dialog with patients about concurrent treatment and collaborative relationships with American Indian healers.
In many urban areas there are no Native American healers, and medicine persons travel long distances when called to these areas. Often, patients must travel “home” to find medicine/spiritual healers of the same cultural heritage and tradition. Whenever possible, co-therapy with traditional healers and medicine persons or diagnosticians should be encouraged. In some situations it is possible to have the traditional healer participate as a member of the interdisciplinary team.
If an American Indian elder is hospitalized and requests it, arrangements may be made for ritual or ceremony at the bedside, which may include smudging with sage or sweet grass smoke. Other arrangements could be for Indian medicine pouches, bundles, or other specific items of sacredness and healing that should not be disturbed or touched by health care personnel or hospital staff.