Exploring Clinical Medical Anthropology

I chose clinical medical anthropology because I am going to Physician Assistant school next year.  I will most likely be working in a hospital or clinic and I will see patients from many different cultures.  I also work in EMS now and deal with patients of different races and cultures.  A lot of people we treat that are from different cultures have different religious views or cultural views.  Some might believe the reason they are having a heart problem is because of karma or spirits, and not because of a biological problem.  It is hard for us to understand this because western culture is used to a biological approach to medical problems.  Some people may be against medications or believe they are wrong to take.  EMS personnel sometimes will be more concerned about vital signs or computer programs than the actual illness experience of the patient.  It is important that we look at each individual patient differently and try to talk to them and explain to them what’s going on and how we can help.  Physician Assistants often have their own patients in clinical setting like an ER or other healthcare facility.  When working for a hospital in an ER, I could use an anthropological approach to change the way I work depending on the patient’s cultural or economic status.  Like what was said in the lecture, patients from poor areas or cultures will not always follow health protocols we set for them.  A patient with congestive heart failure may need strict medications, a strict diet with low salt, and other things.  Poor people or people from different cultures might not follow these rules because they can’t afford to live this way or they don’t believe in medications, doctors, or any number of reasons.  Healthcare providers need to realize this and talk to the patients to find out if they are willing to follow a diet plan, or if they are willing to take their medications like they should.  Perhaps a different diet plan or a different medication plan could be formed based on their willingness to participate.  Other people might not understand healthcare well.  It is hard to explain to a patient what is going on with them biologically, especially if they are from a culture that believes in things like spirits more than biological problems.  People might also not trust healthcare in general.  Like the mother’s with HIV from Melawi that breastfeed their children and trust their local practices more than what WHO tells them.  This could be the same in a hospital setting.  If we prescribe medication to someone from a different culture, they might have had a bad experience with doctors, or their country had bad doctors.  They might not take the medicine because they believe it could be bad for them.  We have to keep this in mind and try and understand them individually and personally before just prescribing drugs to treat a biological ailment.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Amber Hauck says:

    I love the fact that you took this class knowing that you will be in the medical field. I hope that in the future you can use what you learned from anthropology to help change the way patients are treated!
    I liked your evaluation of Clinical Medical Anthropology. It’s great that now you can see that working in an ER or in a physician setting that patient’s cultural and economic statuses are important. The people in the different settings will always treat medical care different, and it’s important not to be single minded when encountering this variety of people.
    One thing I do feel that you may have missed in your evaluation, however, is the narratives we could draw from our patients. To understand exactly how they are interpreting and feeling about their disease may provide better care outside of just the medicines we provide them. When caring for patients, as you know working in those clinical settings, it is just as important to make them feel comfortable and happy as it is to give them the proper medications. If we could get insight on how each individual is feeling, we could provide them with a better experience overall.
    Good luck in your future endeavors!

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