Transcultural Nursing Theory or Culture Care Theory by Madeleine Leininger is one of the most well-known nursing theories, and, unlike some others, its influence these days seems to be no less than when it was first developed. The issues it addresses, such as diversity and the need for cultural sensitivity, are growing increasingly important with “the trends towards the globalization of healthcare” (Leininger & McFarland, 2002, p. 3). Therefore, it might be helpful to look deeper into the theory.
First, one should start by analyzing the main ideas of Leininger’s approach to nursing. Its fundamental premise is that not only do individuals from different cultures have different overall beliefs and behaviors, but their perceptions regarding care, illness, and well-being may also vary greatly (Gonzalo, 2019). Therefore, nurses’ objective is to find ways to employ their general knowledge and experience in the appropriate ways considering their patients backgrounds, beliefs, and expectations (Leininger & McFarland, 2002). The idea of transcultural nursing emphasizes that a nurse should seek to gain more information on culture-specific differences and constantly increase their awareness in that area (Leininger & McFarland, 2002). Nurses should provide culturally congruent care through the “use of sensitive, creative, and meaningful care practices”, to “fit with the general values, beliefs, and lifeways of clients for beneficial and satisfying healthcare” (Leininger & McFarland, 2002, p. 12). Thus, while based on universal principles acknowledged by most cultures, nursing care should aim to be culturally flexible.
Leininger developed her definitions of such central nursing concepts as health, environment, human beings, and nursing, as an occupation, in itself. By her theory, health is seen as a culturally-specific concept related to what is considered optimal well-being within any given culture (Gonzalo, 2019). In turn, nursing is viewed as a learned profession that focuses on providing care and assistance to support and facilitate patients’ well-being (Leininger & McFarland, 2002). It is interesting to note that Leininger emphasizes that nursing is a learned profession as opposed to a calling. This might be connected to the fact that she sees humans (who are both recipients and providers of care) as capable of compassion and showing concern for the well-being of others (Gonzalo, 2019). Therefore, nursing is a professional one, taking their natural ability to care, can excel through learning. She also emphasizes the necessity to address not only the needs of clients but also their families and communities (Gonzalo, 2019). Thus, during their practice, nurses are expected to demonstrate cultural sensitivity by communicating both with individuals and with groups taking into consideration their values and beliefs.
For Leininger, the idea of the environment is closely connected to culture, environmental context, and worldview. She defines culture as “learned, shared, and transmitted knowledge of values, beliefs, norms, and lifeways of a particular group that is generally transmitted intergenerationally and influence thinking, decisions, and actions in patterned or certain ways” (Leininger, 2002, p. 47). Another important element is environmental context, which is understood as the sum of events and experiences that shape the way humans communicate and perceive the world within a particular culture or geographical region (McFarland & Wehbe-Alamah, 2019). This is largely connected to one’s worldview – the way a person or a group encodes various life events based on their views and beliefs (McFarland & Wehbe-Alamah, 2019). Thus, according to Leininger, the environment is a complicated concept based on a particular culture and which one needs to be aware of while providing care and assistance.
With globalization, nurses increasingly often encounter individuals and families with values, traditions, and expectations distinct from their own. It is essential that they are prepared to provide culturally competent care accommodating their clients’ specific needs to ensure their safety, comfort, and well-being, addressing both their physical and psychological needs. Therefore, Leininger’s writings are still of great value for modern healthcare professionals.
Gonzalo, A. (2019). Madeleine Leininger: Transcultural Nursing Theory. Nurseslabs.
Leininger, M., & McFarland, M. R. (2002). Transcultural nursing: Concepts, theories, research, and practice (3rd ed.). Estados Unidos: McGraw-Hill.
McFarland, M. R., & Wehbe-Alamah, H. B. (2019). Leininger’s Theory of Culture Care Diversity and Universality: An overview with a historical retrospective and a view toward the future. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 30(6), 540-557.