Influence of a Cultural Immersion Experience on Healthcare Students' Spirituality

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 3:15 PM

A. Michelle Hartman, DNP, RN, CPNP
School of Nursing, Duke University, Durham, NC
Linda R. Rickabaugh, MSN, RN
Nursing, Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Roanoke, VA

Learning Objective 1: Describe the influence of a cultural immersion experience on stduent's spirituality.

Learning Objective 2: Identify excamples of sacred moments identified by participants.

Spirituality has been identified as a significant theme during cultural immersion experiences that merited further exploration (Rickabaugh, Hartman, Allison-Jones & Clark, 2009).  The purpose of this naturalistic study was to identify the influence of a cultural immersion experience on studuents' spiritual well being and spirituality. A convenience sample of five healthcare students participated in this study which utilized mixed methodologies. Nursing and health psychology students completed reflective journals and participated in debriefing sessions regarding sacred moments. Sacred moments were defined as a connection or support from a higher power, connection with others, a sense of purpose and a sense of gratefulness, compassion or inner peace (Underwood, 1999). Journals were analyzed using content analysis and theme identification. To compliment the qualitative portion of the study, participants completed the Spiritual Well Being Scale (SWBS) prior to and upon return from the cultural immersion experience.

Connections with others was identified as the most frequently journal theme. Each student team member related strong connections with other team members and the native population. Another major theme was the connection with the entire experience, such as the country and the beauty of nature, which provided a purpose, sense of peace, and gratitude for life. Although scores on the SWBS increased at the conclusion of the trip when compared with the scores prior to the immersion experience, the differences were not significant. Limitations include a small, convenience sample and perspectives were limited to those researchers who also participated in the cultural immersion experience. Results from this study contribute to the limited body of knowledge which exists about student nurses’ spiritual development during their baccalaureate education. Cultural immersion and other transformative learning experiences can provide opportunities for students to enhance their own spirituality.