Ethnonursing and the ethnographic approach in nursing



Publication Details

Molloy, L., Walker, K., Lakeman, R. & Skinner, I. (2015). Ethnonursing and the ethnographic approach in nursing. Nurse Researcher, 23 (2), 17-21.


Aim: To present a critical methodological review of the ethnonursing research method.

Background: Ethnonursing was developed to underpin the study and practice of transcultural nursing and to promote 'culturally congruent' care. Ethnonursing claims to produce accurate knowledge about cultural groups to guide nursing care. The idea that the nurse researcher can objectively and transparently represent culture still permeates the ethnonursing method and shapes attempts to advance nursing knowledge and improve patient care through transcultural nursing.

Data sources: Relevant literature published between the 19th and 21st centuries.

Review methods: Literature review.

Discussion: Ethnography saw a 'golden age' in the first half of the 20th century, but the foundations of traditional ethnographic knowledge are being increasingly questioned today.

Conclusion: The authors argue that ethnonursing has failed to respond to contemporary issues relevant to ethnographic knowledge and that there is a need to refresh the method. This will allow nurse researchers to move beyond hitherto unproblematic notions of objectivity to recognise the intrinsic relationship between the nurse researcher and the researched.

Implications for research/practice: A revised ethnonursing research method would enable nurse researchers to create reflexive interpretations of culture that identify and embody their cultural assumptions and prejudices.

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