The state of the art of twinning, a concept analysis of twinning in healthcare

Franka Cadee*, Marianne J. Nieuwenhuijze, A. L. M. Lagro-Janssen, Raymond De Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Inequities in health have garnered international attention and are now addressed in Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3), which seeks to 'promote well-being for all'. To attain this goal globally requires innovative approaches, one of which is twinning. According to the International Confederation of Midwives, twinning focusses on empowering professionals, who can subsequently be change-agents for their communities. However, twinning in healthcare is relatively new and because the definition and understanding of twinning lacks clarity, rigorous monitoring and evaluation are rare. A clear definition of twinning is essential for the development of a scientific base for this promising form of collaboration. Method: We conducted a Concept Analysis (CA) of twinning in healthcare using Morse's method. A qualitative study of the broad literature was performed, including scientific papers, manuals, project reports, and websites. We identified relevant papers through a systematic search using scientific databases, backtracking of references, and experts in the field. Results: We found nineteen papers on twinning in healthcare. This included twelve peer reviewed research papers, four manuals on twinning, two project reports, and one website. Seven of these papers offered no definition of twinning. In the other twelve papers definitions varied. Our CA of the literature resulted in four main attributes of twinning in healthcare. First, and most frequently mentioned, was reciprocity. The other three attributes were that twinning: 2) entails the building of personal relationships, 3) is dynamic process, 4) is between two named organisations across different cultures. The literature also indicated that these four attributes, and especially reciprocity, can have an empowering effect on healthcare professionals. Conclusions: Based on these four attributes we developed the following operational definition: Twinning is a cross-cultural, reciprocal process where two groups of people work together to achieve joint goals. A greater understanding and a mature definition of twinning results in clear expectations for participants and thus more effective twinning. This can be the starting point for new collaborations and for further international studies on the effect of twinning in healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
Article number66
JournalGlobalization and Health
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2016


  • Healthcare professionals
  • International collaboration
  • Midwives
  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Reciprocity
  • Twinning

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