The Discipline of Transcultural Nursing
by Jennie A . Gunn
Madeleine Leininger , PhD , RN , FAAN , founded the discipline of
Transcultural Care and introduced the theory of Culture Care
Diversity and Universality . A visionary far beyond her time , Dr . Leininger realized that culture was important in care as early as the 1950s . She asserted that care should be culturally congruent and meaningful to the patient and proposed that nurses should have basic knowledge about the culture of patients in their care . Ideally , at first contact , the nurse considers what cultural ways are important to the patient and strives to include them in care .
When caring for a white , Irish Catholic patient , for example , the nurse needs to have some idea about the cultural ways of the patient . Does the patient want a priest to be contacted ? What foods are cultural , and will the patient eat meat on Friday ? Are there any specific healing practices ? There are times the nurse may seek to change ways by negotiating with the patient , accommodating the cultural ways , or rarely , discouraging the practice , if harmful .
Every person belongs to a culture , and most people belong to many cultures . As the first nurse to obtain a PhD degree in anthropology , Dr . Leininger saw the need to integrate nursing and cultural ways , thus creating culturally congruent care and transcultural nursing as a discipline ( Leininger , 2008 ).
Because of the vast information and knowledge to be mastered in practice today , many nurses gravitate toward a specialty upon graduation . The nurse may identify as practicing in geriatrics , pediatrics , oncology , family , medical , surgical , or other specialties . Certification exists for many practice areas . Transcultural nursing is also a specialization , but it is different . Any nurse , regardless of the practice specialty , can be a transcultural nurse . The transcultural nurse looks through the lens of cultural care in all practice disciplines of nursing . Another way of looking at this is to imagine how much care can be improved when the patient ’ s cultural ways are included in the care . Regardless , whether the patient has surgery or the flu , every person deserves culturally congruent care .
Care is the central focus of nursing , and culturally based care is essential . Transcultural nursing is defined as “ a legitimate and formal area of study , research , and practice , focused on culturally based care beliefs , values , and practices to help cultures or subcultures maintain or regain their health ( well-being ) and face disabilities or death in culturally congruent and beneficial ways ” ( Leininger , 1999 , p . 9 ). This holistic way of providing care is especially important because people migrate more than ever before . The world ’ s people are no longer separated by culture and country , but exist together .
26 NSNA IMPRINT n JANUARY 2021 n www . nsna . org