The cultural construction of illness amongst isiZulu-speaking nurses : probing nurses' understanding of patient's illness and health in hospitals.
This study attempts to understand how cultural constructions of illness amongst isiZulu-speaking nurses shape their understanding of health, illness and patient care. The study thus takes as a backdrop, the idea that people‟s views of the world and daily phenomena are shaped by their cultural practices and beliefs. The study was qualitative and ethnographic and was carried out at a public hospital in the Durban area. It involved 20 participants and the data was collected through in-depth participant observation and semi-structured interviews. A unique feature of the study was that some of the participants were both trained biomedical nurses as well as practicing izangoma. The findings of the study show that the isiZulu-speaking nurses‟ understandings of health and illness have been shaped by their cultural constructions of health and illness. Aside from their nursing training, isiZulu-speaking nurses‟ understanding of health and illness is likewise understood as being in part, shaped by and embedded in their cultural practices and beliefs such as bewitchment and ancestry curse. These cultural constructions and understandings in turn influence their clinical decisions and patient care. The research findings reveal that the isiZulu-speaking nurses involved in the study face levels of internal conflict in carrying out clinical decisions. Such a conflict was deeply expressed by the nurses; especially the isangoma nurses who felt that their twin expertise as traditional practitioners and nurses places them in a better position to understand „how‟ to care for patients, against the care prescribed by the hospital. This difficulty faced by the nurses is informed by the sometimes conflicting and contested expectations on them as biomedical personnel against their own culturally embedded understanding of health, illness, and patient care.