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Int J Nurs Stud. 2010 Jun;47(6):761-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.12.012.

Providing culturally appropriate care: a literature review.

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  • 1School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Faculty of Health and Behavourial Sciences, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.



As part of a study that explored how midwives incorporate cultural sensitivity, into their practice, the literature was reviewed to ascertain how the concept of culture has been, defined and what recommendations have been made as to how to provide culturally appropriate care, to individuals from Indigenous and/or ethnic minority backgrounds.


A systematic review of the literature was undertaken.


Electronic databases including Medline, Cinahl, Socio-file and Expanded Academic Index, were accessed.


Several key search terms were used for example, midwife, midwives, midwifery, nurse, nurses, nursing, culture or cultural, diversity, sensitivity, competency and empowerment. The, results relating to midwifery were few; therefore 'nursing' was included which increased the amount, of material. References that were deemed useful from bibliographies of relevant texts and journal, articles were included. The inclusion criteria were articles that provided information about culture, and/or the culturally appropriate care of individuals from Indigenous and/or ethnically, culturally and, linguistically diverse backgrounds. Materials reviewed for this paper satisfied the inclusion criteria.


There are two main approaches to culture; the first focuses on the cognitive aspects of culture, the 'values, beliefs and traditions' of a particular group, identified by language or location such as, 'Chinese women' or 'Arabic speaking women'. This approach views culture as static and unchanging, and fails to account for diversity within groups. The second approach incorporates culture within a wider, structural framework, focusing on social position to explain health status rather than on individual behaviours and beliefs. It includes perspectives on the impact of the colonial process on the ongoing relationships of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and how this affects health and health care.


Most of the literature focuses on the cognitive aspects of culture and recommends learning about the culture of specific groups which is presumed to apply to everyone. This generic approach can, lead to stereotyping and a failure to identify the needs of the individual receiving care. The concept of, cultural safety derived from the second approach to culture and practice has potential but evidence to show how it is being incorporated into practice is lacking and health professionals appear to be unclear about its meaning.

(c) 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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