Partnering with the Social Work Department, the School of Nursing planned a six-day clinical immersion experience for undergraduate nursing students in Guatemala. Twenty-eight pre-licensure nursing students enrolled in Community and Public Health Nursing completed a 13-week theoretical course prior to the international immersion experience. The students received an orientation to the country including its historical and political perspectives, social classes, geography, cultural practices, and healthcare education and delivery systems. The University Study Abroad Office also provided a general informational session regarding international travel as an undergraduate student. Upon completion of the theoretical course, students participated in the clinical immersion experience and provided care in remote and rural villages of Guatemala in the Department of Zacapa.
Clinical learning outcomes achieved in the international immersion experience were: (1) understanding and application of an ecological perspective to practice, (2) incorporation of evidence-based practice to aid in health promotion, (3) use of social and environmental factors of health to enable student to work effectively with diverse populations, (4) integration of vital statistics and population data in planning health services in the community setting, and (5) identification of team strategies, both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, that would improve community health.
The international immersion experience provided students a unique clinical learning environment that promoted successful achievement of student learning outcomes. Student journaling revealed increased cultural awareness, resourcefulness, positivity with the experience, and gratitude. Challenges encountered during the immersion experience included communication barriers, lack of resources and equitable distribution, and various ethical dilemmas. Future recommendations for the international immersion experience include collaboration with advanced practice graduate students, formal division of clinical groups, and improved translation services. This project demonstrates that clinical learning outcomes can be achieved in alternative learning environments such as international immersion experiences.
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