Journal of Professional Nursing

Teaching Cultural Safety The Culturally Safe Way   

Lynda Jeffs, RGON, BA MPH (Distinction), MCNA(NZ), Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health and Sciences, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Christchurch

Reference:  Jeffs, L. (2001). Teaching cultural safety the culturally safe way. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, (17)3, 41-50.


The concept of cultural safety emerged in New Zealand in the late 1980s as a response to the differential health experience and negative health outcomes of Maori, the first nation people of New Zealand. It was introduced and developed by Irihapeti Ramsden who recognised the effect culture has on health and who understood safety as a common nursing concept. Cultural safety is taught by both Maori and non-Maori educators as part of all nursing and midwifery curricula in New Zealand. This paper presents a strategy to assist nurse educators teach cultural safety in a culturally safe way. It was developed from my own experience and acknowledges the work of (Wood & Schwass, 1993).  

Cultural safety, nursing education, transformative education

Cultural safety has been a compulsory component of New Zealand nursing education for ten years. By requiring that within the nurse’s practice there are processes whereby the nurse’s service is evaluated by the client, it is a genuine attempt to transform the historic power relationship between nurses, nursing and those they serve. This process identifies the power of the nurse as a culturally constructed person, as well as a nursing practitioner. It also shows the unsafe nature of health institutions for those with little or no culturally constructed power. Cultural safety education is directed towards assisting students to understand their own culture and the theory of power relations, in a safe, non-judgmental way. With limited social and collegial mandate the nurse educator faces a difficult task. The aim is also to develop culturally safe nursing practice as defined by the recipients of the nurse’s care, an outcome which may require significant attitudinal change on the part of the student.   

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