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ANALYZING Madeleine Leininger's Theory of Transcultural Care in Nursing

Updated on August 27, 2015

Madeleine Leininger was a popular nurse theorist who was born in 1925 and died in 2012 in Sutton, Nebraska. She was also a nurse professor who came up with the concept of transcultural nursing. She was a great contributor to a transcultural nursing theory which presented her perspective on caring.

Leininger began her nursing education at St. Anthonys Hospital School of Nursing which enabled her to earn a nursing diploma. After earning a diploma, she attended Creighton University where she was also able to earn an undergraduate degree in the same faculty. The desire to advance her career made her go to American Catholic University where she graduated with a master of science in nursing discipline. She went on to acquire a PhD in social and cultural anthropology in Washington University in 1966. In her lifetime, she had held more than three honorary doctoral degrees. The professor worked at various faculty positions at the University of Colorado and the University of Cincinnati. She as well served as a school dean at the University of Washington and Utah. She served as an Emeritus Professor at Wayne State University and finally a faculty member at Nebraska university where she worked as a professor until the time of her death (Lynn,2005).

In his theory, Leininger has focused on putting into consideration a patient’s cultural background alongside aspects of spiritual, psychological, physiological and social in providing a holistic health care. This owes to the fact that the beliefs and values that have been engrained to the patients from one generation to another do have a significant impact on a patient’s health. Further, these beliefs and values determine the reactions to treatment alongside the patient’s social life and environment. The transcultural theory of nursing by Leininger has been very noteworthy in the nursing discipline and many nurses are applying it in their day to day practice. The theory which is also coined as the Cultural Care Theory is categorized under the general practice and specialty area. It focuses on culture as one of the most essential means of understanding the similarities and variations between and among groups. For Leininger, it is required for nurses to be concerned on the cultural background and values of nurses. In this light, nurses must undertake a cultural assessment on each patient before administering care. Once this assessment is complete, the nurse has to design a nurse care plan which matches the cultural values of the client. Analysis and Critique of the Tran cultural Nursing Theory In this theory, Leininger seeks to explain the factors in cultural based care which influence individual or group health, occurance of illnesses, wellbeing and death. The theory aims to provide a culturally congruent, meaningful, and safe care to patients of varying and similar cultures (Leininger, 2001, p. 190). The theory studies cultures as a means of comprehending the similarities and differences. Cultural competency is a critical aspect in the nursing profession owing to variation to each individual attitude concerning wellness and illness. Congruence between healthcare and culture is important for the wellbeing of each person and groups. The health practices and beliefs of an individual are interconnected with his or her culture. The theory focuses on the cultural beliefs and practices as essential elements in determination of care plan for the client. It rests on the assumption that nurse practitioners have to take into consideration the variation of cultures and diversity of patients and that the cultural values connect with their health. In light of this, every client has to be treated or cared for in a different way and that a consideration should be made on personal uniqueness. This assumption emanates from Leininger's belief in God as “a caring and creative being” (Leininger, 2002, p. 190).

Leininger’s theory employs the concept of ethnicity, race and culture in understanding human behavior. While offering care that is culturally competent, it is important for nurse practitioners to have an understanding for the meaning of these terms. Other concepts focused by Leininger include cultural awareness, cultural competence and acculturation. These concepts are believed to integrate the most basic concept of transcultural nursing into a well established knowledge base. According to Ayonrinde, (2003) culture influences many aspects of human life including health, illnesses and the search for distress and disease. The author also notes that there is emerging of multicultural trends in many nations, thanks to increased mobilization of people across national and geographical borders.

Cultural competence is another critical element in the discipline of nursing. Nurses ought to provide cultural competent care to individuals and groups of ethnic and racial minority, groups with varying religion, age, sexual orientation and social economic standings. By definition, cultural competency is a combination of culturally congruent practices, behaviors and policies which may enable nurses to effectively operate across various cultural contexts (Leininger & McFarland, 2002). In this perspective, nurses are required to have knowledge in culture and religious perspectives.


The essence of Transcultural Theory by Dr Leininger is the co-participation of the nurse and the customer. The nurse and the patient must work together in identifying, planning, implementing and evaluating every caring mode in providing nursing care that is culturally congruent. The theory emphasizes on providing measures of care that are in tantum with an individuals or groups cultural practices, believes and values. The theories comprehensive and holistic approach has led to wider nursing practice applications than what conventionally anticipated with other middle range theories.


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