Students' Reflections of a Global Service-Learning Experience

Wednesday, 24 July 2013: 2:10 PM

Alice L. March, PhD, RN, FNP-C, CNE
Marilyn Handley, RN, PhD, CNE
Capstone College of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to state how service learning fosters the development of cultural competence.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to list 4 of the 8 themes derived from student journals.

Purpose: Educating nurses for today’s global healthcare environment requires providing unique learning experiences designed to foster the development of cultural competence. This may be enhanced by cultural immersion. Not only are students face-to-face with actual health problems, but they are imbedded in the very culture that has produced those alterations, and can clearly observe the proscriptions and prescriptions that will directly and indirectly affect health teaching and care. A service-learning framework, highlighting healthcare, culture, and spirituality guided learning and reflective journal entries of undergraduate nursing students participating in a medical mission spearheaded by the faith based group. The purpose of the study was to explore students’ perception about the experience, and to assess what they learned about cultural competence.

Methods: Thirteen students consented to complete reflective journaling and to have the journals evaluated, using grounded theory with a constant comparative approach, to discover themes related to their perceptions. Open-ended questions guided journal entries by focusing reflections on culture, spirituality, and healthcare prior to, during, and after the experience.  Member checking confirmed the researchers’ interpretation of data.

Results: Students were extremely open and deeply reflective of their experiences. The overarching themes included: expectation and anticipation, experiencing the unknown, experiences along the way, growth, resiliency of the people of Peru, discovery, discomforts, and emotional responses. Sub-themes developed within those broader themes revolved around personal, spiritual, professional, cultural, and healthcare perceptions.

Conclusion: Service-learning in a foreign country, including care delivered by students to vulnerable populations, provides a global healthcare experience that cannot be duplicated in the United States. Students arrived home with a new understanding of cultural competence and a sense of appreciation for the way life is lived in North America.