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Madeleine Leininger

Dr. Madeleine Leininger was a remarkable woman who was one of the early nursing theorists and the first to introduce the concept of transcultural nursing. She also introduced the discussion of what it means to care.

Early Life

Madeleine Leininger was born on July 13, 1925, on a farm outside of Sutton, Nebraska, to George and Irene Leininger. As the middle child of five, she had two older sisters and two younger brothers. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a homemaker. After graduating from Sutton High School in 1942, she entered St. Anthony's School of Nursing in Denver, Colorado, and was also a member of the United States Army Nursing Corps, a government program that trained nurses during World War II.

Education and Nursing Career

After graduating from St. Anthony's with a diploma in nursing in 1948, Leininger continued her education. In 1950, she earned a bachelor's degree from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas. From 1951 to 1954, she studied biology, nursing administration, curriculum and teaching at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and earned the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Following this, she studied psychiatric mental health nursing at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and received her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in 1954. From there, she went to the University of Cincinnati where she studied nursing curriculum and the social sciences from 1955 to 1958. While there, she was an associate professor of nursing in the Child Psychiatric Nursing Program from 1954 to 1959. She began her doctoral studies in 1960. The National League of Nursing awarded her a fellowship to study human behavior in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea as part of her program. In 1966, she received a PhD in cultural and social anthropology from the University of Washington. She was the first nurse to achieve this honor.

Dr. Leininger had a very remarkable career with many achievements. After receiving her PhD, she joined the faculty of the University of Colorado where she taught in the College of Nursing and the department of anthropology and was the director of the Nurse Scientist Program from 1966 to 1969. She returned to the University of Washington from 1969 to 1974 and was the dean and professor of nursing and also a lecturer in the department of anthropology. From 1974 to 1981, she held various positions at the University of Utah including dean and professor of nursing, professor of anthropology and Director of the Center for Nursing Research and the Doctoral and Transcultural Nursing Programs. She spent her last years of full-time teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. From 1981 to 1995, she was a professor of nursing, professor of anthropology and director of the Transcultural Nursing Program and the Center for Health Research.

Even though Dr Leininger semi-retired in 1995, she was still very active in teaching and promoting her work. She was Professor Emeritus at Wayne State University College of Nursing, an adjunct clinical professor of nursing at the University of Nebraska and in demand as a lecturer and consultant.

Dr. Leininger established the Transcultural Nursing Society (TCNS) in 1974, and it continues to be an important forum for bringing nurses together to improve the care of patients in diverse cultures. Its website can be accessed at www.tens.org. The Journal of Transcultural Nursing, also founded by Dr. Leininger, supports the research of the society. In 1978, she founded the Caring Conferences for nurse scholars who are interested in dialogue and research in the caring sciences, and this has grown to be the International Association for Human Caring (IAHC).

Honors and Awards

Dr. Leininger was the recipient of many honors and awards throughout her extraordinary career. In addition to being Professor Emeritus at Wayne State University, she was Professor Emeritus at the University of Nebraska School of Nursing. She was awarded honorary degrees from Benedictine College, the University of Indianapolis and the University of Kuopio in Finland. She was a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing in Australia and a member of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. In 1998, she was named as a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing.

Nursing Theory

Dr. Leininger began developing her nursing theory in the 1950s when she recognized the missing component of cultural knowledge in nurses' understanding of patients. She defined transcultural nursing as a study of cultures to understand the similarities and differences in patient groups. The Transcultural Nursing Theory also is known as the Culture Care Theory, but she preferred to call it a discipline. The theory was presented in her book, Culture Care Diversity and Universality: A Theory of Nursing, in 1991. It was further developed in 1995 in Transcultural Nursing: Concepts, Theories, Research and Practice.

Publications related to Madeleine Leininger

A prolific writer, Dr. Leininger wrote and edited over 35 books. Her journal articles, papers, presentations and video productions number in the hundreds. Before her death, Dr. Leininger had the foresight to make her materials available for teaching and research at four different locations. Many of the scholarly and professional papers are housed in the Madeleine M. Leininger Collection on Human Caring and Transcultural Nursing at Christine F. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University, and at the Walter Ruether Archival Center at Wayne State University. A collection of her books is at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, and many of her early papers are at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

A number of short video presentations are available on YouTube. These show her passion and dedication to the discipline of transcultural nursing.

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