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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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Native Communities

Group in discussion with community member

American Indian and Alaska Native communities are rich in culture, wisdom and Tribal practices that have endured for thousands of years. As a recruiter of health professionals for Native communities, you will need to impress upon candidates that learning about Indian cultures — particularly the ones in the Area to which they are assigned, is essential. The candidates will need an awareness of generational differences in how they, as a provider of care, are perceived. But ultimately, impress upon the candidates that a community's collective health and well-being is their day-to-day mission. Whatever the candidates bring to their assignment, their skills, passion and genuine interest in the community’s history and culture is a good place to start and, for many, helps provide them with a life-changing experience.

Indian health clinicians often live in close proximity to each other within the communities they serve. Upon arrival, they will quickly understand why those who proactively immerse themselves in the Indian community enjoy a more holistic and satisfying career experience. Encourage them to seek out opportunities on their own and with new friends and colleagues.

They will soon find that culturally and linguistically, Native Tribes are by no means all alike, even though there exists common threads — not the least of which are health issues, as well as general beliefs about health and illness, respect for the mind-body connection, an emphasis on the use of natural remedies and the inclusion of trusted, traditional healers, when desired.

The IHS Ambassador should impress upon candidates that their appreciation for and understanding of a community’s culture and traditions will help them acclimate more easily and be accepted within the community. This, in turn, should empower their ability to communicate and initiate effective treatment. Impress upon them to approach this unique opportunity with an open mind and a willingness to adapt to living and working within a remote community.