Navigating Cultural Waters: Experience of Western Patients Being Cared for by Chinese Nurses in Beijing

Sunday, 27 July 2014: 8:50 AM

Chanell Jan C. Concepcion, PhD, RN
Nursing Education Department, Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics, Beijing, China


There is a paucity of studies that examine the nursing care received by patients who are considered ‘foreigners’ or are non-native to the country where they receive care. As China emerges as a major player in world economy, there is also a rise in the number of foreigners visiting and living in the country in the past decade. In the 2010 census, there are over one million foreign and non-mainland Chinese nationals living in China. About a quarter (23%) is from Western countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and European countries such as France and Germany. This study aimed to explore the lived experience of patients from Western that were being cared for by Chinese nurses in Beijing, China. It specifically aims to look into the patients’ experiences related to culture and care expectations.


Face-to-face interviews were conducted among 10 patients from countries considered to be “Western” (i.e. United States, Canada, and Europe). These participants were inpatients at an international-standard hospital in Beijing, China who has experienced being cared for by Chinese nurses for at least 3 days. Interviews were done in the English language and audio recordings were made and transcribed thereafter. The findings were analyzed and interpreted according to the philosophical framework congruent with hermeneutic phenomenology, particularly Van Manen’s phenomenological approach and Munhall’s (Munhall, 2012) stepwise approach as guide for the methodology of the study.


Four primary themes emerged from the data pointing towards cultural diversity: navigating cultural differences, negotiating care expectations, pain management expectations and knowing persons through caring (Locsin, 2010, Boykin,  & Schoenhofer, 2001).


The participants described how they find themselves navigating through cultural difference and negotiate their care expectations, including management of pain. As individuals who are experiencing health issues while away from their home countries, the Western patients have fears and uncertainties, which later turned to trust and confidence as they are being cared for by the Chinese nurses. In the process of caring, both nurse and patient celebrated their humanness by knowing persons in caring. Caring is created as an expression of the wholeness of persons and not just arising from a deficit or culture-related problem.

The study has potential to transform nursing practice within a sensitivity that is grounded in caring implicating disciplinary, professional, and practice perspective in settings such as Beijing, China. Implications of this study are incorporated in nursing training program in the study setting. The findings also provide implications for nursing research and education.