Educating patients on tactics and treatments to support their best health can be almost as rewarding as watching them follow your recommendations to facilitate healing.

However, nurses must be prepared to treat those who come from a belief system or cultural background that does not readily embrace standard treatment suggestions. Studying transcultural nursing theory prepares nurses for the challenges they may face while treating a diverse population.

Learn more about the UMFK online RN to BSN program.

Madeleine Leininger: Founder of Transcultural Nursing Theory

Madeleine Leininger is credited with developing transcultural nursing theory, also referred to as culture care theory. Nurse Labs notes that she coined the term “culturally congruent care” in the 1960s. Her immersion in other cultures helped her develop an understanding of and success with treating different populations.

Leininger discovered that nurses needed a better understanding of patients’ cultures to best administer care to them. Patients are more likely to follow recommendations for health and healing when their caregivers understand and respect their cultural norms.

In 1974, Leininger created the Transcultural Nursing Program at the University of Washington School of Nursing after recognizing the need for nurses to understand the culture of patients from different backgrounds. Today, transcultural nursing concepts are taught at universities nationwide.

The Essence of Transcultural Nursing

Health practices are as varied as the cultures they inhabit. Current Nursing provides a few common cultural practices that nurses may encounter. Some healing practices incorporate protective objects like amulets or crystals to foster health and ward off illness. Others use food as a preventive measure or cure for disease, like chicken soup to fight a cold. Religious practices may involve chants, prayers, candles or herbs to clear away the malady. Tribes may have a healer to perform ceremonies believed to promote health. Such practices must be considered when developing individual treatment plans.

Comprehending how families, groups and communities care for one another can inform nurses on how to achieve the best outcomes when treating patients from such diverse backgrounds. This is the basis of transcultural nursing. Culture develops over generations and is therefore difficult to fully penetrate as an outsider, which is why it is important for nurses to learn about cultural care.

An awareness and comprehension of a group’s practices is helpful prior to patient treatment to better establish communication and trust. Indigenous and folk-based knowledge can be harnessed to assist in patient treatment when those traditions are known and honored. Understanding a patient’s culture allows the nurse to guide treatment while respecting that patient’s traditions and worldview. This improves patient outcomes and compliance from those under their care.

Recognizing the similarities and differences between one’s own culture and that of another helps one grasp why some cultural practices hold significance. Culturally congruent care accommodates patients’ life patterns instead of sticking to rote practices.

Nursing in a Diverse World

The interconnectedness of the modern world requires an appreciation and understanding of other religions, customs and beliefs, especially in administering healthcare, as affirmed by The melting pot that is America is rich with diversity. As a result, nurses are nearly guaranteed to treat patients from different cultural backgrounds than their own. American Nurse Today states that diversity and inclusion are key considerations in transcultural care.

Transcultural nurses benefit from a familiarity with several different cultures, especially those with high representation in their community. Getting to know the local customs helps nurses provide appropriate treatments. This also means adjusting care to work with the belief systems and practices of individual patients, instead of working in conflict and risking non-compliance or worsening of health.

Nurses who practice transcultural care bridge modern care with the patient’s heritage, striving for comprehension of the patient’s attitudes and concerns for the health condition presented. Establishing a sense of trust with diverse communities is imperative to successfully treating these patients.

Transcultural nurses may find opportunities to practice care in other parts of the world, with urban and rural areas offering a varied and interesting population in need of treatment. Working with migrants, refugees and immigrants locally is an opportune chance to integrate treatment with traditions.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent offers the Transcultural Care in Nursing class. This course educates students on how to apply their evidence-based training in culturally sensitive ways. Students learn how to provide effective care to diverse populations, keeping that group’s beliefs and values in mind.

Learning more about the diverse groups you will treat in your nursing career can not only improve patient outcomes, but it can also enrich your own appreciation of others and their cultural healing practices.

Learn more about the UMFK online RN to BSN program.


Nurselabs: Madeleine Leininger: Transcultural Nursing Theory

Nursing Theories: Transcultural Nursing Transcultural Nurse

American Nurse Today: Making a Difference for Patients Through Culturally Congruent Care