Shamans In Hospitals

The article A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul written by Patricia Leigh Brown, is a look at how the Mercy Medical Center in Merced, CA employs shamans such as Va Meng Lee to help care for patients. They are allowed in the hospital and allowed access to patients, similar to priests. The doctors have chosen to incorporate these shamans into the system of care because they feel that these shamans help the patients with spiritual concerns, which in turn allow them to better recover from illnesses. The cultural role of these shamans is rapidly becoming more apparent, as many patients feel that they need spiritual healing as well as physical. This also helps creating trust between the communities and the doctors that can be invaluable in dealing with sick individuals. The shamans are first entered into a training program, where they learn aspects of western medicine, and are upon completion given badges that allow them recognition by the hospital. Shamans such as Mr. Lee are allowed to preform ceremonies of healing (spiritual inoculation) to safeguard the patient’s soul form wandering on its own or being effected by malevolent spirits. Even if the rituals are not the cause of healing, the social support and belief aspects has a positive effect on how well the patient recovers from his or her illness.

In this case the healer is the shaman Va Meng Lee who is considered to be a healer in Hmong culture. Through the use of rituals, he is able to protect the souls of his patients and help them overcome illness. He serves not only a comforting factor, but is directly responsible for how the patients view medicine and healing in a cultural sense. In terms of sectors, shamans are a part of the folk sector, as they share the cultural tendencies of the Hmong people and use a holistic approach. These shamans feel that the body and the soul are intrinsically connected, so what effects one will have an effect on the other.

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