Parameters of learning during clinical nursing study abroad: focused analysis of phenomenological data using a change-transformative learning theory lens

Debra A. Morgan*

*Corresponding author for this work

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To explore the nature and extent of learning attained as a result of unaccompanied-by-faculty clinical nursing study abroad experiences and to answer the research question ‘what is the nature and extent of learning during study abroad?’.

Following the Covid-19 restrictions, international placement opportunities for student nurses are now resuming. In light of this, it is an opportune time for nurse educators to reflect and consider the effectiveness of clinical study abroad placements as contexts of learning, especially in relation to attainment of desired learning outcomes such as personal and professional growth and the development of culturally competent global graduates. This is an important area to research as specific understanding in relation to the extent of learning and variations in learning between students is limited.

The study was situated within the interpretivist paradigm to elicit experiences of study abroad. Aligned to this, a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology was applied to ensure these experiences emerged from the subjective horizon of student nurses.

Following ethical approval, two semi-structured interviews per student (post-return and follow-up) were conducted with student nurses who had undertaken a study abroad experience. Phenomenological hermeneutical data analysis for multiple context research was undertaken and a change-transformative learning theory lens was additionally employed to the analysis to differentiate between the extent of and variations in, learning attained. Twenty UK and European student nurses, who were registered onto a study abroad programme prior to the Covid-19 restrictions participated.

Variations between participants were identified in relation to the nature and extent of learning. Participants experienced personal and professional growth and they experienced transformation in relation to self as a person, learner and nurse. However, variations existed when considering the attributes of global graduateness and cultural competence development. Whilst participants changed by expanding their knowledge in relation to global and cultural issues, some participants also appear to have concurrently experienced a reinforcement of ethnocentric frames of reference.

Analysis revealed that study abroad offered opportunities for students to experience change and transformation. Whilst students demonstrated learning in both the domains of change and transformation, transformative learning in all identified outcome areas was not guaranteed. Whilst transformative learning was apparent when considering personal and professional growth, less extensive learning was demonstrated when considering development of the attributes of global graduateness and cultural competence. The paper therefore recognises the complex nature of study abroad experiences and recommends continued investigation in this field.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103831
Number of pages7
JournalNurse Education in Practice
Early online date5 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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