What is the meaning of international placements for student nurses? A narrative inquiry at one university in north west England

Sanderson, Linda (2019) What is the meaning of international placements for student nurses? A narrative inquiry at one university in north west England. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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International placements contribute to the development of skills which support employability of graduates in a global market place (Devane, 2017). From a nursing perspective the placements contribute to competent care of culturally diverse clients in the ‘home’ country (Repo et al., 2017). This research offers insight into the student nurse perspective; “What is the meaning of international placements for student nurses?”
A Narrative Inquiry methodological approach was taken and 9 student nurses told their ‘story’ of an international placement during a research conversation. One student participated in a second conversation; two further nurses told of their student nurse international placement from their perspective as qualified nurses.
Every student told a unique story but there were also ‘Common Threads’ of meaning. Findings supported reviewed literature that suggests an international placement offers opportunities for personal and professional development. However the narrative inquiry approach also provided rich data which highlighted aspects of meaning of international placements not frequently discussed in the reviewed literature.
Motivation, energy and organisational skills are required to prepare for an international placement. The development of cultural competence is possible but challenging for student nurses on international placements. There is a pervasiveness of emotion before, during and after an international placement; this is a challenge for some students but also a key aspect of learning from the experience. The international placement can be seen as integral to becoming a nurse and offers an opportunity for student nurses to reflect upon their usual field, highlighting the challenge of being caring and compassionate in the context of the NHS. The narrative analysis also drew attention to the ‘missing stories’ of those students who cannot undertake an international placement and other people involved in the international placement e.g. nurses in the host country.
Overall the meaning of an international placement related to the vast array of learning opportunities, which meant that the students developed ‘knowledge capital’. However, learning from such an experience is complex, social in nature and at times challenging. This research contributes to understanding the social and relational nature of learning from experience and builds upon the theories of Dewey (1938), Bourdieu (1977) and Lave and Wenger (1991).
Recommendations are made to continue international placements at the North West University but to acknowledge student ‘effort’ and ‘learning’ by linking to an accredited module. Suggestions are made to support student nurse learning from the experience; also to share that learning with students who cannot undertake the placement. An aspirational recommendation is to establish a long term relationship with an overseas healthcare placement to facilitate project work that will be mutually beneficial to all involved.
This research contributes to understanding the relevance of international placements in a nursing curriculum. The impact such a placement may have on future nursing care offered by the students has been addressed in a limited way. The meaning of such a placement for people local to the host countries is an important area for future research.

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