There are currently some 500 American Indian tribes in the U.S., each with its own unique cultural beliefs, customs and traditions. Health care providers who have first-hand experience or knowledge of a tribe’s beliefs about health and illness, as well as its traditional healing practices and remedies, can be particularly effective in helping to fight serious health problems that disproportionately affect Indian patients, such as diabetes and cancer. But because Native Americans are severely underrepresented in the health care workforce—only 0.5% of RNs are Indian, for example—it is vitally important for non-Indian health professionals to acquire this cultural understanding as well.

To help increase the cultural competence of health care providers who work with American Indian patients and families, the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in Minneapolis has developed a new instructional video, “Getting to the HEART of It: Bridging Culture & Health Care.” Featuring candid interviews and advice from Indian physicians, nurses and patients, the award-winning 18-minute video focuses on what health professionals need to know about Indian culture and how to translate that knowledge into culturally appropriate care.

Using visuals that effectively balance scenes of traditional Indian healing methods with scenes of modern health care settings, “Getting to the HEART of It” covers a variety of techniques for bridging cultural gaps between providers and their patients. These include learning about the tribe’s history and culture; establishing trust and respect with the tribal community; learning how to communicate with patients about their cultural, religious and health-related beliefs; and the importance of respecting traditional tribal healers and partnering with them in health care process.

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The video, which was produced by a Dakota-owned media production company, Allies: Media/Art, was developed in partnership with American Indian community representatives and health care providers from the Ho-Chunk, Ojibwa, Chippewa and Cheyenne River Lakota tribes, among others. Although most of the Indian health professionals who appear in the video are doctors, a nurse—Roxanne Struthers, RN, PhD, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwa—is also prominently featured.

A limited number of complimentary copies of the “Getting to the HEART of It” video—which comes with a Discussion Guide and a list of additional resources–are available to health care educators and to agencies that are working with health care providers to deliver more culturally sensitive care to American Indian families. To request a free video, contact Ann Garwick, RN, PhD, University of Minnesota School of Nursing, at (612) 624-1141 or [email protected].

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