If you’re thinking of working at an Indian Health Services (IHS) facility, it is likely you will experience a bit of a culture change. Unless you are from the area, you may notice that communication styles, language, and patient care to some extent, are different than in other places you have worked. In this article, we write about etiquette when working at an IHS facility to give you a better idea of what it is like and what behavior is acceptable.
Working at an IHS Facility
As we wrote in our article What to Know When Working at an IHS Facility, it is important to learn about the culture and be open-minded. Avoid stereotyping based on appearance, language, or other outward characteristics. Instead, listen more than you speak and become more comfortable with long pauses or silence in conversation. Observing how others handle verbal and nonverbal cues will help you adjust and understand how to best communicate with patients and their families.
- Learn how the community refers to itself as a group. This will help you adjust your language so that you’re better able to serve your patients and be part of the culture, even when away from work.
- Explain what you’re writing when you’re making clinical documentation or charting while in the presence of the patient and/or their family. They want to understand what is being written about them.
- Like in any culture, don’t assume that head nodding means they understand what you’re saying. Instead, choose language that is not medical jargon so the patient and their family are clear about what is happening and can support their family member.
- Be open to allowing a situation to proceed according to the idea that events happen when they are supposed to happen. It is part of the culture to think in this way.
The goal is to connect with your patients and their families in a meaningful way, just as it is anywhere you accept a travel contract. Just as there are recommended ways to act, there are social and communication cues for what not to do when working at an IHS facility. Being respectful is the basic theme.
- Be conscious of your nonverbal communication. This includes looking at your watch, pointing with your fingers, and standing too close as these may be taken as rude.
- Ask before taking pictures to respect tribal culture privacy.
- Do not touch sacred items including medicine bags, other ceremonial items, hair, jewelry, and other personal cultural possessions.
- Avoid stereotyping based on looks, dress, and outward appearances.
- Avoid intrusive questions early in the conversation.
- Do not interrupt another person during conversation or interject during long pauses.
You may experience people expressing their mistrust, frustration, or disappointment from other situations that are outside of your control. Learn not to take it personally. Continue to learn and embrace the culture and be respectful of others.
As always, reach out to your AB Staffing recruiter regarding questions or concerns. Each tribe has different cultural norms. Ask your recruiter for advice and literature to better educate yourself before working at an IHS facility.