Experiential Approach

For me, I think the experiential approach is the most useful because it reflects the voice of illness as an individual experience. People are intersected by many different variables within their lives, and because of this illness and health are not universal experiences. I think the experiential approach is useful, because it allows us to understand illness as a unique feeling or perception that can differ between individuals and cultures. Understanding how health and illness are interpreted can give us a better understanding of what health care means globally.

The distinction between disease and illness can overlap in many ways, so I would have to say it is not clearly obvious to me. Disease is something based in biology, it is physical, while illness is something more complex, and it involves the mental processing of what disease is. So where do we draw the line? Someone could be ill, but nothing could be actually physically wrong with her. For example, someone could have a stomachache caused by stress. She feels ill, but nothing is physically wrong with her stomach. On the other hand, she may be having the opposite experience. She has a stomach infection, her stomach hurts, but she blames it on her nerves and tells her self nothing is wrong. For these reasons, the distinction between disease and illness can be a hard one to decipher.

To be honest, I’ve read the Nacirema article before, so I knew the article was talking about American culture before reading it this time. But, if I can remember correctly, I think I realized this somewhere around when Miner starts talking about the chopping down of a cherry tree in which the spirit of truth resided. Quite witty! I like this article, because it points out how bizarre our cultural ideology is. For one, this article displays a clearly sexist overtone within health care. The article discusses how the body and sex is sworn to secrecy. However, the female body, in an extreme nearly unattainable form, is paraded around for visual pleasure. We even parade female nurses around in the hospital as they wear a specified nurse uniform. At the time this article was written, I am sure the nurse uniforms closely resembled what one would find at a college costume party today. Further, our obsession with power is emphasized and reflected in the health care industry. The society we live in, that has been created, makes it clear that those with power and money are the ones who get to live the good life. If you have money (called gifts in the article) you can be happy, healthy, and beautiful. You can pay for dental care, surgery, and prescription medication with the gift of money. And if you do not have the money to pay people to make you the ideal American, then I am sorry, but you will have to live a less than perfect life according to cultural standards. With all of this in mind, I do not blame Miner for describing the magic ritual life of the Nacirema as a difficult burden to hold.

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  1. Colleen Drabek says:

    I loved what you had to say about “visual pleasure” especially pertaining to the female body in hospitals! It seems that values and ideologies in the health field have changed a little throughout the 50 years following this article but some things remain unchanged. Whereas women no longer wear “visually pleasing” nurse outfits, the stigma of a woman’s role in medicine persists. There is still disproportionality between men and women working as medical doctors. People still expect doctors to be men and women to be nurses. This stems from the fact that people are wired to believe that men are better suited for “calling the shots” such as doctors usually do and that woman are better at following directions and having a motherly, caring demeanor which makes them a good nurse.

    Even though as far as outfits go, both doctors and nurses wear scrubs—far from visually pleasing—women remain somewhat “stuck” in the stereotypical nurse setting while men more easily advance as doctors. Hopefully one day these types of barriers can be broken and men and women can be equal in all fields of work, especially medicine. Until then, at least nurse costumes have gone by the wayside! This change in values for the health system will surely be beneficial for everyone involved.

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