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Abstract: PO1382

Rethinking Renal Caregiving in Anthropological Terms: An Interdisciplinary Methodological Approach

Session Information

Category: Educational Research

  • 800 Educational Research


  • Schmidt, Insa Marie, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Rethinking caregiving in nephrology through an anthropological lens may bring a new perspective to a holistic understanding of renal care by encouraging health professionals to reflect critically on the complex webs of care, culture, and ethics in which renal medicine is enmeshed.


This study draws on anthropological methodology and ethnographic research to develop a framework for reconceptualizing renal care. An extensive review of the anthropological literature on renal care is used to illustrate some of the multifaceted challenges of caregiving in nephrology and to develop a framework for use in the clinical encounter to better understand patients’ illness-related beliefs and their relevance for clinical practice.


The key domains in renal care are framed by diverse cultural, societal, and individual beliefs regarding the organ’s function and the causes of kidney disease. Ethnographic data from dialysis and renal transplant patients in the United States, Europe, Mexico, and China show that diverse and controversial disease and treatment beliefs pose a different kind of challenge to the communication between health professionals and their patients. Based on these findings, a framework has been developed that can be integrated in medical education programs and provides a guide for health professionals to think through the complex psychological, ideological, and ethical underpinnings of nephrology’s central therapeutic modalities such as transplantation and dialysis.


Bringing an anthropological sensibility to the clinical gaze may help to understand the cultural and moral world in which the caregiver-patient relationship needs to be formed. The integration of the medical humanities into the educational programs of renal caregivers can be used to develop a better understanding of patients’ diverse disease and treatment beliefs which will ultimately improve the caregiver-patient relationship.


  • Private Foundation Support