Intercultural competency development of health professions students during study abroad in India

Claire A. Richards, Ardith Z. Doorenbos


Objective: Short-term international health-related study abroad seminars for health-professions students are increasingly popular because of a focus in higher education on global awareness and intercultural competency. This study describes a study abroad strategy to teach students intercultural communication skills and knowledge, and evaluated the effectiveness of a 3-week health-related study abroad program and intercultural competency curriculum in increasing skills and knowledge of health-profession students.

Methods: This was a mixed methods study, with a pretest-posttest, within-subjects design, and content analysis of student reflection journals. The curriculum was designed to increase students’ sensitivity to different cultural worldviews and support attitudes such as curiosity and openness that lead to relational abilities such as flexibility and adaptability. Students completed the Intercultural Sensitivity Scale (ISS) and Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) both 3 months prior to and immediately following the trip. Means and standard deviations were calculated and a paired t-test was performed.

Results: Qualitative analysis of students’ reflections presented evidence of developing awareness of their own cultural worldview, openness to Indian culture, and the use of skills to develop intercultural competence. There was a non-statistically significant improvement in ISS and IES scores.

Conclusions: Students’ reflections demonstrated personal growth through the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed for further intercultural competence development. Students indicated that the curriculum helped them make meaning out of their experiences. Short-term health-related study abroad seminars may help students develop self-awareness and cultural openness by providing theoretically based curriculum before departure and while in the host country, including structured reflections and cultural mentoring, engagement with locals, and a balance of challenge with support.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

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

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