Cultural competence: a constructivist definition

J Transcult Nurs. 2015 Jan;26(1):9-15. doi: 10.1177/1043659614541294. Epub 2014 Jul 17.


In nursing education, most of the current teaching practices perpetuate an essentialist perspective of culture and make it imperative to refresh the concept of cultural competence in nursing. The purpose of this article is to propose a constructivist definition of cultural competence that stems from the conclusions of an extensive critical review of the literature on the concepts of culture, cultural competence, and cultural safety among nurses and other health professionals. The proposed constructivist definition is situated in the unitary-transformative paradigm in nursing as defined by Newman and colleagues. It makes the connection between the field of competency-based education and the nursing discipline. Cultural competence in a constructivist paradigm that is oriented toward critical, reflective practice can help us develop knowledge about the role of nurses in reducing health inequalities and lead to a comprehensive ethical reflection about the social mandate of health care professionals.

Keywords: competence; constructivism; cultural competence; cultural safety; culture; social justice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Competency / education*
  • Cultural Competency / psychology
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Education, Continuing / methods
  • Education, Continuing / standards
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Nurses / psychology