Global Awareness and Interdisciplinary Education via a Study Abroad Program in San Ramón, Costa Rica

Tuesday, 19 November 2013: 8:50 AM

Christine M Aramburu Alegría, PhD RN
Orvis School of Nursing, University of Nevada Reno, Reno, NV

Learning Objective 1: 1.Discuss approaches utilized in a study abroad program to help immerse students in local health care.

Learning Objective 2: 2.Identify how nursing faculty can impact interdisciplinary education and collaboration in a study abroad program.

A relatively low percentage of nursing educators may have had the opportunity to teach abroad or to seriously envisage teaching abroad.  With a charge to increase cultural competency and global awareness, educators are encouraged to consider this enriching experience.   Teaching abroad offers opportunities to globalize one’s worldview, increase foreign language competencies, network internationally, and learn a different culture, including its healthcare practices.

This paper discusses the author's experience as a visiting professor teaching abroad in San Ramón, Costa Rica, August – December 2012, teaching two courses in the university studies abroad program hosted by the University of Costa Rica.  These courses addressed health disparities in diverse populations, and health promotion and disease prevention across the lifespan. 

Undergraduate students from diverse health-related fields including nursing, psychology, and public health were enrolled.  These students, who will in the future be interdisciplinary colleagues, collaborated in class and on projects.  Together they discussed local, regional, and global health disparities; social determinants; and approaches to improvement. 

With an aim to not only foster interdisciplinary collaboration early in the students’ career paths, but to also increase cultural competency, the students participated in internships with local healthcare personnel, including nurses, therapists, and physicians.  To gain insight into the local healthcare system, the author attended provider-patient sessions with nurses and psychologists.   Additionally, students and author met with local residents as volunteer English teachers, providing attendant San Ramonenses insight into life in the USA.  Lastly, students and author participated in two hospital-based projects:  an employee health fair; and the creation, implementation, and analysis of a survey of hospital employees on stress and ambient music.

In sum, teaching abroad provides a unique opportunity for nursing faculty.  The experience increases global visibility of US nurses, provides participants an understanding of foreign cultures, and enhances interdisciplinary collaboration among students and the community.