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.
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.