Empowering Native American Patients

Healthcare decisions are difficult to discuss for anyone, but cultural and linguistic differences can put Native American patients at a particular disadvantage. Because 35 percent of the system’s patient population is Native American, the issue is a critical one for Northern Arizona Healthcare (NAH) to address.

Emmalee Kennedy, MD, FAAHPM, is the medical director of NAH’s Palliative Care Department. She explains patients and staff frequently encounter situations where Native American patients and their families need assistance with understanding their health circumstances. “Since the majority of our Native patients at Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) are Navajo, the most formidable barriers [to effective communication] were a strong cultural aversion to discussing potential end-of-life situations and the hesitation of clinicians to begin these conversations,” she said.

The Foundation and FMC’s Certificate Holders, along with generous donor Jill Kettela, gave Navajo patients new tools to make these kinds of decisions by funding palliative care videos that integrated Navajo culture and language in presentations on common healthcare conversations.

The videos, which are used at Flagstaff Medical Center, Verde Valley Medical Center, Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility, and Banner Health facilities, have received a positive response from healthcare providers—nurses and care coordinators frequently request the videos—and patients and families alike.

“Our patients tell us the videos are beautiful and informative,” Kennedy said. “We have been grateful to have a tool to allow many family members to learn about these care decisions at their convenience.” She notes the videos are important tools to get personalized conversations—the cornerstone of patient care—started.

Learn more about how you can help empower patients.

About Flagstaff medical center Certificate Holders

Flagstaff Medical Center has relied on its Certificate Holders advisory group to help shape its future for more than 60 years. The group's members, comprised of area civic leaders and other community members, serve as ambassadors and individual advocates for FMC, Northern Arizona Healthcare, and the Foundation.

Sandra KowalskiComment