The Lived Experience of Nursing Students who Study Abroad: A Phenomenological Inquiry

Monday, 13 July 2009: 2:45 PM

Michelle L. Edmonds, PhD, ARNP-BC, CEN
School of Nursing, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to verbalize understanding of how students may develop cultural competence by studying abroad.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will state at least 2 benefits and 2 impediments regarding study abroad programs for nursing students.

Purpose: Nurse researchers need to explore study abroad programs and identify their impact on the development of cultural competence and global perspectives in nursing students.  The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of nursing students who study abroad and to identify benefits and impediments that may be used to spawn future research and shape existing and future study abroad programs. The research question for this phenomenological study was “What is the lived experience of nursing students who study abroad?” 

Methods:   A purposive sample of nursing students was obtained and included participants who completed an elective study abroad nursing course to either England or Dominica between 2006 and 2008.  Data collection was obtained from two sources: semi-structured interviews and the written reflective travel journals. 

Results: Four themes became evident as a result of becoming immersed in their written and spoken words.  Those themes were: recognizing, encountering, adapting, and mastering.  Findings from this study suggest that there are vast benefits of study abroad programs for nursing students including, but not limited to, increased personal growth, awareness of diverse cultures, adapting despite an unfamiliar environment, and increasing self-efficacy. 

Conclusion:   These findings have strong implications for nursing education, practice, and research.  Through studying abroad, nursing students learn how to begin the journey of cultural competence which will translate into better patient outcomes with diverse populations.