Re: Anthro for nurses? Suggestions needed

Noel Chrisman (noelj@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Mon, 20 Nov 1995 08:49:21 -0800

Hi Pam Wilson,

You asked (quite a while ago) for advice about teaching intro anthro to
nursing students. I teach a cross cultural nursing course to nursing
students and thus there is some relationship.

My first advice is to be careful using the term "medical profession" in
the same sentence with nursing. Nurses have the same sort of love/hate
relation with physicians that anthropologists do and prefer to be
recognized for their own achievements. In fact, nursing and medicine
have some significant differences, one of which is what makes it fun to
teach anthropology to them. Nurses are much more likely to be interested
in the whole person in the social, cultural, and physical context than
most physicians. That means that all the stuff you teach about everyday
life will be useful to them.

On to specifics: I spend time on some basic concepts in
anthropology--culture, value, belief, custom, ethnocentrism, cultural
relativism, medical system e.g. For each of these you can collect
examples that show how they are related to life when one is sick. I
strongly recommend the book by Geri-Ann Galanti, _Caring for Patients
from Different Cultures_ U Penn Press.

Ethnocentrism is the single most important concept for health
professionals to use anthropological insights. Western medicine helps
its practitioners to be extremely ethnocentric and this is a real
challenge for anthropologists to overcome. In addition, the trick is to
recognize that the ethnocentrism that accompanies the strictly biomedical
aspects of what they do is very important and should be retained to some

A really good set of exercises has to do with getting students to
interview friends, family, or (if they are taking a clinical course
simultaneously) patients. I teach them how to do "explanatory model
interviews" (see Kleinman, Eisenberg, and Good in the Annals of Internal
Medicine, 1978 or Kleinman 1980, _Patients and Healers in the Context of
Culture_, UC Press, 1980). Further, to expand the context in which
sickness occurs, I teach them something I invented called the health
seeking process (Chrisman 1977, in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry Vol
1 # 4. or Chrisman and Kleinman chapter in D. Mechanic (ed) Handbook of
Health, Health Care, and the Health Professions, 1983).

You will have fun finding guest speakers such as healers of various
types (both alternative like polarity therapy) and ethnic like curanderos
or herbalists.

Good luck,

Noel Chrisman
University of Washington