06.04 Care for Native American Patient Populations

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Included In This Lesson



  1. Culture
    1. Family
      1. Caregivers
        1. Assist in treatment
    2. Harmony
    3. Modesty
    4. Humility
    5. Disease
      1. Connection
        1. Spiritual
        2. Emotional
        3. Mental
        4. Physical
      2. Caused by imbalance
  2. Treatment practices
    1. Restore balance
    2. Spiritual healer
      1. Shaman
      2. Medicine man
    3. Herbs
      1. Sage
      2. Sweetgrass
    4. Chants/Prayer
    5. Meditation
    6. Purify and cleanse
      1. Fasting
      2. Sweat lodge
  3. Communication
    1. Body language
      1. Avoid direct eye contact
      2. Shake hands when meeting
      3. Proxemics
        1. Personal space
        2. Positioning
      4. Avoid gestures
      5. Avoid touching
    2. Talk softly
    3. Provide reassurance
    4. Be patient
      1. May be long periods of silence


Today we’re going to be talking about Native American culture.

In Native American culture, family is the main caregiver and we try to involve family members in treatment as much as possible. You will find that when caring for a Native American patient, there is always a family member nearby. Accommodating any and all family members will foster that family culture. Native Americans believe in being humble and living simple lives. Harmony, modesty and humility are all extremely important in this culture as well so be sure to provide as much privacy as you can where possible.

Native American culture believes that the mind, body and spirit are all connected. Depending on the tribe, there are rituals that help maintain that connection and, also the connection to the culture itself. When there is in imbalance with all or any combination of these, disease and illness occurs.

Just like there are practices to maintain balance, there are also different practices to restore it. Native Americans often use spiritual healers known as medicine men or shamans for healing. They are thought to have a gift of healing through the deity worshipped by the tribe.  The shamans as well as family members also use herbs like sage and sweetgrass for healing as well. You’ve probably heard of burning sage to ward off evil spirits. All of these can be used during healing rituals along with chants, prayers and meditation. Fasting and sweat lodges can be used as well, but not only for the sick. These are used in purification rituals and religious ceremonies to cleanse the spirit. 

We know a little more about the Native American culture, let’s talk about some communication do’s and don’ts. First, watch your body language. Avoid direct eye contact, gesturing and touching because it can be disrespectful. Also, maintain personal space and be sure to shake hands when you enter the room.

Other things to be aware of, as I said earlier, be sure to respect your patient’s cultural need for modesty. Make sure you keep his or her body exposure limited only to what you need to examine. Maintain a soft speaking voice as well. Again, modesty is key.  Reassurance isn’t just for this population. Each of your patient’s should be comfortable with you and the care you provide. And lastly, listen to your patient’s needs and wants, but be patient. More often than not, there are longer periods of silence because your patient listens to understand what you are saying, so any questions he or she has may not come while the information is processing.

We love you guys! Go out and be your best self today! And as always, Happy Nursing!