Learning beyond expectations: Evaluation of an international nursing student exchange

Helder Rocha Pereira, Maryellen D. Brisbois, Helena Oliveira Silva, Caitlin M. Stover


Background/Purpose: Study abroad programs, through international exchanges in undergraduate nursing schools, are becoming common in response to a globalized world and imperative for nurses to acquire cultural awareness and related competencies. Increased recognition of exchanges exists, with limited empirical evaluation of learning outcomes. The purpose of this study was to understand the impact of a short-term international exchange on Portuguese and American nursing students in respect to its influence on learning.

Methods: A mixed-method research design was utilized for data collection. Online survey (demographic data and revised HPSISN tool) and focus group data collection using synchronous chat groups captured nursing student experiences and perceptions about their participation in a two-sided exchange.

Results: Focus group data from sixteen nursing students (aged 20-39) delineated two major themes: 1) Expectations of the student exchange with three subthemes: a) motivations to participate, b) met versus unmet expectations, and c) beyond expectations; and, 2) Learning (how and what) with six subthemes: a) understanding cultural differences, b) recognizing a different health care system, c) reconsidering the role of the nurse, d) building team work, e) integrating theory into practice, and f) peer mutual learning. Survey data across the four dimensions: 1) Perspectives of exchange, 2) attitude toward community involvement, 3) future professional work and, 4) personal reflection exhibited students acquired personal and professional competencies that were beyond their expectations of the exchange.

Conclusions: Results strongly support nursing student participation in international exchange programs develops personal growth and professional competencies that may impact future practice when caring for diverse patient populations. Universities should develop and foster global programs for student engagement.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v8n2p72

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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