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Transcultural Models Comparison in Nursing Practice

It is worth noting that values are the basis of any human culture. A person relies on traditions, norms, and customs established in their culture and gradually forms a set of fundamental and generally accepted values (Abitz, 2016). Each culture develops its unique system of values that reflects its position in the world. In the process of intercultural communication, significant differences in how the same values are perceived by representatives of different cultures become more pronounced and evident. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the aspects of Purnell model and that of Leininger’s theory as applied to cultural competence.

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Purnell Model

The model developed by Purnell was created in order to help train medical personnel while increasing their awareness of the process of developing intercultural competence. The concept offers recommendations on the use of different cultural approaches to health. It also suggests 12 basic cultural domains that a healthcare professional should know or try to find out when assisting each client (Purnell, 2005).

From the point of view of this model, specialists need to complete several tasks in the socio-cultural aspect of care. First, every professional should be able to code different cultural groups and their approaches to health issues. Second, the model describes the factors that are necessary for developing intercultural competence in staff in terms of the socio-cultural aspect of human health (Purnell, 2005). The third task is to increase multicultural and socio-cultural competence in improving the mental and physical health of patients. Fourth, nurses should strive to enhance mutual understanding between healthcare agents and cultural communities in order to find and select the best treatment methods.

Leininger’s Theory

Leininger Sunrise Model is one of the fundamental approaches that are still relevant to contemporary society. It was developed as a response to the need to provide care to culturally diverse patients residing in the US (Leininger, 1988). The approach suggests that the intercultural competence of a healthcare specialist is based on the comparative study of cultures (Leininger, 1988). Nurses need to be able to provide culturally-specific care to their diverse patients, which means that they should be capable of recognizing the differences and similarities in care. The result of this understanding is transcultural nursing that acknowledges and appreciates differences among people.

The value of this methodology for the development of nursing is indeed great as the approach has allowed taking a fresh look at the functions of the medical personnel and nurses in particular (Leininger, 1988). Initially, they could only provide care for patients; however, with the development of the transcultural approach, nurses received an opportunity to sustain the health of clients, prevent diseases, and ensure maximum independence of patients in accordance with their individual capabilities.


Interestingly, the theory proposed by Purnell and Leininger’s Sunrise model have quite a few differences at the fundamental level. In particular, the first approach serves as a foundation for comprehending the different attributes of a culture (Bivins, 2016).

This ensures healthcare specialists can understand the characteristics of each client such as their experiences, notions about diseases, and expectations regarding the process of care. In terms of the model’s structure, it is based on the different aspects of global society (Bivins, 2016). For instance, the approach suggests that such domains as family and community are equally important in forming a person’s self-identification.

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In its turn, Leininger’s concept of culture-specific care places a greater emphasis on the relationship between anthropological aspects and nursing principles. Culture is regarded as the result of the interaction of multiple dimensions including financial, social, philosophical, ethical, legal and other factors (Maňhalová & Tóthová, 2016). Therefore, to provide adequate care, specialists need to assess these aspects as well as consider a person’s language and background.

When comparing the first model to the second one, it may be assumed that Leininger’s model is less holistic and comprehensive as it focuses on an individual’s physical, cultural, and spiritual needs. According to this theory, specialists can achieve the desired patient outcomes when they understand how to tailor these needs (Maňhalová & Tóthová, 2016). Importantly, this model is particularly helpful in avoiding the stereotyping of clients while Purnell’s approach is applicable to almost any healthcare context.

Another significant difference between the Leininger’s approach and Purnell model is the failure of the first methodology to recognize the importance of assessing political and structural processes. It may be assumed that the model places emphasis on conventional views and diversity characteristic of the society (Albougami, Pounds & Alotaibi, 2016). However, the notion of cultural diversity may be extended to include the differences not only among groups but also among individuals belonging to the same culture.

These dissimilarities stem from the differences in socioeconomic backgrounds, varying age groups and so on. Purnell’s model reflects the non-linearity of the process of cognizing an individual’s cultural characteristics (Albougami et al., 2016). Moreover, Purnell’s methodology may be used not only to study the culture of other nations but also to gain a deeper awareness of a person’s own culture.

Notably, Purnell model is handy in evaluating culture in clinical settings. Thus, it can be characterized by flexibility since it may be adapted for various contexts. Moreover, unlike Leininger’s approach, Purnell’s methodology implies concatenating historical elements and their impact on an individual’s cultural perspective (Kietzmann, Hannig & Schmidt, 2015). This means that healthcare specialists can recognize the unique characteristics of each client and provide culturally-competent care to them.


It should be stressed that the two concepts have several common aspects. It is important that Purnell model, as well as Leininger’s theory, assumes that the development of the intercultural competence is an uninterrupted process that can occur in different ways but mainly through contacts with different cultures. Also, both approaches may be used in different circumstances and by specialists operating in different areas of the healthcare industry (Cai, 2016).

Apart from that, both methodologies require that nurses acknowledge the unique characteristics of every client. This includes not only their social and cultural backgrounds but also their views of illness and motivation (Cai, 2016). A deeper understanding of all these domains allows healthcare specialists to employ appropriate communication strategies that facilitate a better quality of care.

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Thus, it can be concluded that both models emphasize the need to understand the significance of cultural differences and the ability to adequately take them into account in the process of communication with patients. In order to achieve mutual understanding, specialists should take into account the different contexts in which a person lives and functions since they affect not only their general outlook but also the way certain practices are perceived.

Consequently, despite the differences that the two approaches exhibit, both models suggest that intercultural competence is a whole system of analytical and strategic abilities that expands the individual’s interpretational spectrum in the process of interpersonal interaction with representatives of other cultures.


Abitz, T. L. (2016). Cultural congruence and infusion nursing practice. Journal of Infusion Nursing, 39(2), 75-79.

Albougami, A. S., Pounds, K. G., & Alotaibi, J. S. (2016). Comparison of four cultural competence models in transcultural nursing: A discussion paper. International Archives of Nursing and Health Care, 2(3), 1-5.

Bivins, B. L. (2016). Integrative review on adherence in Haitians with diabetes. Nursing Forum, 52(3), 165-172.

Cai, D. Y. (2016). A concept analysis of cultural competence. International Journal of Nursing Sciences, 3(3), 268-273.

Kietzmann, D., Hannig, C., & Schmidt, S. (2015). Migrants’ and professionals’ views on culturally sensitive pre-hospital emergency care. Social Science & Medicine, 138, 234-240.

Leininger, M. M. (1988). Leininger’s theory of nursing: Cultural care diversity and universality. Nursing Science Quarterly, 1(4), 152-160.

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Maňhalová, J., & Tóthová, V. (2016). The potential use of conceptual models of cultural competence in the nursing profession. Kontakt, 18(2), e69-e74.

Purnell, L. (2005). The Purnell model for cultural competence. The Journal of Multicultural Nursing & Health, 11(2), 7-15.

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