Send to

Choose Destination
Scand J Caring Sci. 2010 Sep;24(3):436-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2009.00733.x.

Student nurses' experiences of communication in cross-cultural care encounters.

Author information

Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Nursing, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden.



Communication is a fundamental component of cross-cultural care encounters. Nurses experience communication difficulties in situations where they do not speak the same language as their patients. Communication difficulties are a major obstacle for immigrant patients and can lead to insufficient information and poor quality nursing care in contrast to the majority population.


To explore student nurses' experiences of communication in cross-cultural care encounters.


Semi-structured interviews were undertaken a purposive sample of 10 final year students from one university in Sweden: five participants were from a Swedish background and five from an immigrant background. Interviews explored participant's experiences of communication in cross-cultural care encounters. Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed and analysed using 'framework' approach.


Four themes were identified: conceptualizing cross-cultural care encounters, difficulties in communication, communication strategies and factors influencing communication. 'Culture' was equated with country of origin. Cross-cultural care encounters involved patients from a different immigrant background to the nurse. Student nurses experienced particular difficulties communicating with patients with whom they did not share a common language. This led to care becoming mechanistic and impersonal. They were fearful of making mistakes and lacked skills and confidence in questioning patients. Various strategies were used to overcome communication barriers including the use of relatives to interpret, nonverbal communication, gestures and artefacts. Other factors which influenced communication included the student's attitude, cultural knowledge acquired through education and life experience.


Although student nurses seek creative ways to communicate with patients from different cultural backgrounds they lack skills and confidence in cross-cultural communication. Nursing programmes need to address this deficit to ensure that nurses are equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide quality care to patients from different cultural backgrounds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center