Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Ruth Ann Belknap
Associate Degree Nursing students are rarely offered opportunities to study abroad. Educational research about nursing students studying abroad is limited but suggests positive outcomes. Prior research has focused on graduate or baccalaureate students in developed and less developed countries, thus, the experience of studying abroad in a low-income country for the associate degree student is unknown. The purpose of this study was to describe the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of associate degree nursing students who participated in a short study abroad course in a low-income country. Ten students participated in phone interviews to share narratives two to six weeks following their return home.
Mezirow's (1991) theory of transformative learning was applied to the findings. Three categories emerged from the analysis. Participants revealed thoughts of "constant comparisons," feelings of an "emotional journey," and they experienced "learning." The category of "constant comparisons" encompassed subcategories of cultural beliefs, health practices, and poverty. Fear, frustration, shock/surprise, and sympathy emerged as subcategories within the emotional journey. "Learning" comprised of subcategories of elaborating and/or learning new meaning schemes and transforming meaning schemes. Participants did not demonstrate the highest level of learning as described by Mezirow (1991), perspective transformation, as participants signified no intent for social action.
Several potential blocks to perspective transformation were identified: egocentrism/emotional disconnect, perceived powerlessness/being overwhelmed, and a vacation mindset. The findings pose implications for nursing education. To cultivate transformative learning, nurse educators must implement select strategies with students promoting critical reflection and empathy for others during study abroad experiences. Educators must be aware of defense mechanisms and promote effective coping. The findings highlight the importance of proper preparation efforts, objectives, teaching strategies, and assessment methods to foster education of social action in nursing.