Dear Ms. Spiritual Matters,
I am going on a trip to Northeast Assam, a rural area in India, with my nursing instructors and other student nurses. We will be giving immunizations and doing health teaching for children and adults who otherwise would not have access to these preventative measures. I know the children all learn to speak English. Are there any tips you can give to help me make the people I serve feel more comfortable when getting vaccinations?
Mariah, student nurse
Thank you for taking the long trip to make a difference in the health of people. I have been to Northeast Assam and have found the people welcoming and appreciative of immunizations. Your thinking ahead about how to make them most comfortable in a situation where they do not know you is admirable.
Singing is a universal way of reaching others. You might sing a song while the “shots” are given. A song with a repeated pattern is comforting. Think about how hearing the recurring rounds of “Row, row, row your boat…” makes you relax and, sometimes, even want to fall asleep.
You can write your own song. In order to direct the child’s eyes off the needle, you could hold the child’s head in front of you and sing, “I’m looking at you. You are looking at me. We see each other. I’m looking at you. You are looking at me. We are almost done. I’m looking at you. You are looking at me. We see each other. Soon you can go play.” Repetition of this song can go on and on during multiple immunizations.
Another way to approach singing to people of another culture is learning a song that is sung by the tribe you will be serving. This will take some pre-planning on your part, but you will reap rewards. Learning and singing songs from the culture will help you better understand and connect with the people you meet. Serendipitously, learning songs from cultures with which we interface has been shown to enhance us knowing ourselves better.
Susan Schoenbeck holds Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an experienced educator and teaches nursing students at Walla Walla University — Portland, Oregon campus. She is an oblate of a Benedictine Monastery where she learned centering and contemplative meditation practices. She is author of the book, Zen and the Art of Nursing, Good Grief: Daily Meditations, and Near-Death Experiences: Visits to the Other Side.