“You need to be double cultured to function here”: toward an anthropology of Inuit nursing in Greenland and Nunavut

  • Author / Creator
    Møller, Helle
  • Working towards an anthropology of nursing, I explore what it means to become and be an Inuit nurse, using as a lens the experiences and voices of Greenlandic and Canadian Inuit nurses and nursing students who are educated and practice in settings developed and governed by Southerners (Danes and EuroCanadians), functioning largely on Southern cultural norms (Danish and EuroCanadian), in Southern languages (Danish and English). I argue that Inuit nurses and students are the Arctic health care systems’ most valuable assets. They offer unique knowledge, qualifications, and spirit to the Arctic health care systems while being affected by health care politics, a lack of permanent health care staff and high turnover rates. These challenges are compounded by Inuit nurses’ and students’ need to negotiate the languages and cultures of the nursing field, the Southern systems and their Southern colleagues, with the languages and cultures of the patients, their families, and the societies from which they come. Inuit nurses’ and students’ success, therefore, hinges on their possessing double cultural and social capital. This includes the ability to communicate in at least two languages and cultures, and in the field of nursing. It also includes the ability to understand, negotiate, and interact, using at least two ways of being in the world, two ways of learning and teaching, and two ways of perceiving the body, health, and disease. I suggest that communication difficulties between Southern and Inuit health care practitioners, as well as between Inuit clients and some Inuit and Southern practitioners, may arise because they possess different cultural capital. This, I maintain, is complicated by the educational and health care systems in the Arctic continuing to be colonial in nature and catering to Southern cultures and habitus, and because some Southern health care practitioners preserve a colonial attitude that creates obstacles to the provision of optimal care to Inuit clients and barriers to equity in workload and professional demands for Inuit and Greenlandic nurses. In order for Inuit nurses’ and students’ knowledge and abilities to have the greatest impact on patient care and recovery they need to be acknowledged, supported and embraced by the Arctic educational and healthcare systems.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Fletcher, Christopher (Anthropology)
    • Tester, Frank (Social work)
    • Caine, Vera (Nursing)
    • Valianatos, Helen (Anthropology)
    • Smith, Susan (History and Classics)