Purnell Model for Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Table of Contents

Cultural competence, particularly in healthcare, entails the ability of professionals in this sector to exhibit the awareness of clients’ multicultural diversity and ethnic variations following their different beliefs, feelings, and principles. As such, healthcare providers emphasize the need for considering the individual patient’s cultural and social needs when administering various medical services to them. Cultural competency in healthcare seeks to moderate health discrepancies. As this study reveals, the Purnell Model for cultural competence provides an organized system for nurses and physicians to effectively deploy when managing patients from diverse settings.

The Purnell Model and its Framework

Larry Purnell developed this competence-based intellectual system in his lecture on the subject of cultural differences. The Purnell Model is made of spheres that contain twelve components that address people’s diverse cultures. In the health system, all domains of this Model play a huge role in enhancing service delivery. Caregivers and medical professionals factor them in when attending to patients from diverse ethnic origins (Cope, 2015).

The inmost sphere captures the patient, followed by another section that embodies the family. The succeeding circle addresses community-based healthcare aspects. The extreme section represents the global society. According to Debiasi and Selleck (2017), this Model presents different aspects related to communication, relationship development, and religion, among other areas such as ecology. Figure 1 below shows the Purnell Model’s twelve arrow-shaped cultural components.

Purnell Model’s 12 domains
Purnell Model’s 12 domains (Debiasi & Selleck, 2017).

The Purnell Model’s Assumptions

The Purnell Model is founded on various assumptions. Firstly, it assumes that medical officers require analogous information regarding cultural variations. Secondly, as Doğu, Coşkun, Üzen, and Ulay (2015) reveal, the Model disregards the issue of viewing a particular culture as superior to another. Instead, despite having some fundamental similarities, Purnell’s framework recognizes all cultures as disparate. Another assumption is that cultures evolve with time. In addition, the Model supposes that culture significantly determines medical practitioners and patients’ understanding of healthcare (Debiasi & Selleck, 2017).

It acknowledges people’s privilege of being handled with respect, regardless of their cultural settings. Another hypothesis made is that Purnell’s framework can eliminate any form of favoritism or biases if medical practitioners are culturally competent.

How the Model Enhances Cultural Competence

The Purnell Model is fundamental, especially for nurses and medical practitioners. It has been tested and proven capable of improving health officers’ cultural competence. Firstly, according to Doğu et al. (2015), it creates a foundation whereby doctors and caregivers can learn diverse elements that constitute patients’ cultures. In addition, this framework establishes a basis whereby physicians can assess clients’ cultural information to determine the best care or therapy to offer to enhance their healing.

As a result, the Purnell Model improves caregivers’ and health practitioners’ cultural competence by creating a platform that allows them to position people in need of medical services within their respective personal, families, or even communities’ cultural settings. As Doğu et al. (2015) assert, this approach to caregiving not only augments patients’ healing processes but also eliminates chances of prejudice and biases during the service delivery course.


Despite the complexity of global cultures, the Purnell Model has effectively provided a comprehensive and an organized format for measuring and assessing essential values and beliefs of different people, families, as well as communities. This framework is resourceful in the present-day health sector, whereby patients from diverse cultural backgrounds are in need of services that not only appreciate their ethnic and racial differences but also factor in the negative impact of biases and injustice during care delivery.


Cope, D. (2015). Cultural competency in nursing research. Oncology Nursing Forum, 42(3), 305-307.

Debiasi, L., & Selleck, C. (2017). Cultural competence training for primary care nurse practitioners: An intervention to increase culturally competent care. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 24(2), 39-45.

Doğu, Ö., Coşkun, E., Üzen, Ş., & Ulay, G. (2015). Purnell model for cultural competence: Nursing care of an Afghan patient. IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Science (IOSR-JNHS), 5(5), 44-48.

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