Shamans in Hospitals

The healers in this article were the Hmong Shaman. They have recently been allowed in hospitals around The United States to perform ceremonies for patients. In some hospitals they even have acquired the same clearance to walk around the hospital as the clergyman. This article highlighted how these new policies to introduce shamans to Western medicine are a huge step in medical anthropology in considering cultural beliefs in our traditional biomedical practices of healing.  Hospitals around the country have been increasingly embracing cultural beliefs creating a trusting area for peoples from all walks of life to receive healthcare.

These Hmong shaman believe that when a person becomes ill, their soul is lost and they perform the ceremonies in order to summon the soul back to the person’s body. They believe that doctors are necessary to prevent disease but their responsibility is to protect the soul and the combination of these practices allows for a successful recovery.  Their social status among the Hmong people is as high (if not higher) than doctors is Western culture. I think that often our culture undervalues the shaman as healers because we mostly rely on biomedicine in our healthcare. But having the hospitals include them where appropriate shows a great deal of improvement in the medical community.

These shamans operate in the Folk sector of healthcare. They share the cultural values of society and take a holistic approach towards healing compared to Western medicine. The healthcare that they administer is delivered through their ceremonies using ropes, chimes, whispers, and sometimes even animals! The body and systems is understood as the soul being the most important entity to keeping a person healthy. They believe that when you become ill, it is because your soul is unhappy our lost. They use the ceremonies to summon the soul back into the body in order to heal them.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Sultan Qiblawi says:

    Great post Kelly. I think that shamans are comparable to biomedical doctors, not by their scientific value to patients, but by helping to fulfill the spiritual need that many people need to feel that they are ridden of illness. As you mentioned in your post, biomedicine in our healthcare very valuable, but among the Hmong people, Shaman are considered as important (or even more important) than traditional doctors. The way they deliver their care is also different than traditional doctors; they use ceremonies that involve objects (or sometimes animals) and this is fundamentally different than the formal assessment of illness that doctors use. I think that these healers are very credible and are very necessary. Illness is the patient’s personal experience of a disease and can be impacted by more than just the biomedical factors that cause a disease. So, by having Shaman (and other traditional medicine men) assessing spiritual health, it makes the patient’s psychological health better. We may not see it as healing somebody, but I personally view these types of healers are necessary for people who have spiritual beliefs. By supplementing biomedical treatment with traditional healers, healthcare can become more holistic and cater to all types of people in our society.

  2. Ethan Gotz says:

    Hey Kelly, I also think that your post was very good, and Sultan I agree completely with your comment. The Hmong Shamans or any other sort of spiritual healer should be allowed and included in all hospitals. While the doctors and nurses are to diagnose and treat the biological and physiological symptoms that patients with illnesses have without considering the patients’ experience of the illness, spiritual healers (whether its clowns, shamans, etc.) focus on the experience that the patient goes through. Although this may not completely cure the disease directly, this form of treatment may help the patient recover faster from their disease, due to the fact that increased confidence could contribute to a placebo effect. I agree with Sultan with the fact that “these types of healers are necessary for people who have spiritual beliefs”. I do not see how these figures could harm a hospital environment; so why not implement them? Most spiritual healers would be willing to come to hospitals for virtually nothing in return. I feel that the combination of both western and non-western medicine could help patients treat and cure illnesses, in addition to help with the patient ‘cope’ with the illness; providing a more comfortable atmosphere to the hospital’s environment.

  3. Alexis Rife says:

    I agree that the shaman way of healing the soul could complement the biomedical practices of our doctors. I believe that if the patient believes that this shaman healing process works, it will essentially create a placebo effect and boost that patient’s spirits. I also agree that improving a patient’s morale can work wonders on the patient’s overall health; it can give them the strength they need to fight off their bodily ailments. There have been too many witnesses to the tragic death of patients that had lost all hope, emotionally and psychologically drained of any strength they had left. Thus, if there is a strong belief in the shaman healing practices, I believe that they will be effective. This is an unusual practice for the United States. But as we become more diverse and welcome more diverse populations, we should not, if possible, inhibit their cultural practices. This would be especially important if these cultural practices helped improve the overall health of the population, as the shaman practices seem to do for the Hmong populations. As you also said, the shaman of the Hmong people are very highly valued, perhaps more so than doctors among Western society, and will likely have no shortage of credible references to support this. They should be respected as traditional, professional psychological healers.

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