The ancestors have caused this: isiZulu-speaking nurses’ understandings of illness and patient care

  • Maheshvari Naidu University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Gabriel Darong University of KwaZulu-Natal
Keywords: biomedicine, culture, clinical decision making, ancestors


This paper takes an ethnographic and participant observational approach to exploring how a particular group of isiZulu speaking nurses’ understanding(s) and assembled constructions of illnesses and health shape their approach to patient care within the hospital setting. The paper probes how African isiZulu-speaking nurses observe and “group” patient’s illness according to personal understandings of illness and looks at how these understandings contribute to their clinical decision-making and practice. Findings reveal that the nurses appear to operate in a dual system that is oftentimes fraught and conflicted between what their biomedical training dictates, and what their culturally and cosmologically embedded upbringing and Pan African worldview of ancestors and bewitchment compels.