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South African Healing Traditions

1.5 Contact Hours / 0.15 AOTA CEUs
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe South African healing traditions as a way of supporting the important cultural and spiritual elements of those who use this medicine system.
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Traditional healing has existed in South Africa for thousands of years and is utilized by the majority of individuals who live in the region. Drawing from a primarily oral tradition, traditional African healers come from many cultures, speak many diverse languages, and they specialize according to their talents and "calling." To the individual who uses this form of healing and to the traditional South African healer, the body, mind, and spirit are intimately connected.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe the role of traditional healers in South Africa.
  • Explain various traditional African healing practices and processes.
  • Identify traditional African healing diagnostic techniques.
  • Discuss the relationships between traditional African healers and their colleagues.

Traditional healing in South Africa has existed, by some estimates, for over 20,000 years (Hewson, 2015). There are between 250,000 and 400,000 traditional healers in South Africa and only about 25,000 to 30,000 medical doctors (Kern, 2017). Eight out of every 10 black South Africans are believed to rely on traditional medicine alone, or in combination with Western medicine (Ancient Origins, 2015). The concurrent use of traditional and allopathic (Western) medicine is called “medical pluralism” or “medical syncretism” and it is a widespread practice in South Africa (Ross, 2010).

Southern Africa is considered by many to be the “cradle of mankind.” Relative to other countries, South Africa specifically is a young democracy as it was only liberated from the minority Nationalist Party in 1994. It is a complex country with diverse cultural beliefs. As a result, many areas of activity are still divided between Western and African philosophies (Mokgobi, 2015). The system of healing in this region of the world is shamanic in nature even though traditional healers in Africa (sometimes called sangomas, n’anga, and inyanga) are not specifically called “shamans.” There is very little written on these healers and their practices coexist with allopathic medicine practitioners (Ancient Origins, 2015; Hewson, 2015).

A shaman is a medicine man or woman and shamanism is a methodology (not a religion) that is considered the most widespread and ancient method of healing known to mankind (Harner, 1990). While shamanism can be found in many different spiritual practices, it remains an ecstatic technique that is “at the disposal of a particular elite and represents, as it were, the mysticism of the particular religion” (Eliade, 1964, p. 8). Albert Schweitzer reportedly once said

The witch doctor (shaman) succeeds for the same reason all of the rest of us succeed. Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing that truth. We are at our best when we give the doctor that resides within each patient a chance to go to work” (Harner, 1990; Powell, 2011, p. 15).

Shamanic practice has diverse methods and assumptions and occurs all over the world including New Zealand, Australia, North and South America, Siberia, Central Asia, eastern and northern Europe, and Africa. In all of these areas, a shaman is seen as a mediator between the individual and their gods, and as “a great specialist of the human soul: he alone ‘sees.’ it, for he knows its ‘form’ and its destiny (Eliade, 1964, p. 8).

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
    The American Board of Managed Care Nursing recognizes all of ALLEGRA Learning Solutions' ANCC accredited courses for continuing education credit for Certified Managed Care Nurses (CMCNs).
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
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  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
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  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
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  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
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Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Foundational Knowledge

Course Expires:

March 01, 2027

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.