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Defining preparation and preparedness for nursing study abroad trips.

Lear, Holly


Holly Lear


Winifred Eboh

Lesley Diack


The aim of this study is to explore the preparation nursing students receive prior to undertaking study abroad trips. The researcher's personal context that initiated this project is representative of the findings of the literature - namely that students often feel unprepared during study abroad trips. Evidence-based preparation for study abroad trips is absent in the literature, and the few authors who discuss how preparation is carried out indicate that many students are sent out with little or no preparation, and that there is no uniformity in current practice. Inconsistencies exist between higher education institutions' (HEIs) justifications for study abroad (the attainment of cultural competence) versus the stated reasons students study abroad (personal benefit/growth), raising a myriad of ethical quandaries. No specific cases of malpractice arose in the literature, which suggests events are either purposefully hidden or unknown. The lack of preparation is exacerbated by the potential risks nursing students can cause or incur during study abroad trips. A reflexive interview made the researcher's biases toward nursing study abroad trips explicit. This was undertaken prior to collecting data to bracket assumptions. Using a case study method, this study explores two HEI preparation modules from the perspective of study abroad coordinators and nursing students planning to study abroad. One sending institution in Finland was the context of a pilot case, while another in the Netherlands was the context for a formal case study in order to holistically describe the preparation the two groups of nursing students received before studying abroad. Data is presented from interviews conducted with study abroad coordinators, interviews with students, blogs, diaries and institutional documentation. Findings are categorised according to a description of the preparation programme and the study abroad experiences that shed light as to the students' level of preparedness. Subsequently, a Delphi method is employed to achieve a consensus of experts in the field as to what should be included in a preparation curriculum. The findings suggest no two HEIs have the same study abroad preparation programme for nursing students. Preparation is widely varying both in content and length. The researcher theorises that preparation is so often overlooked or limited because study abroad trips are in and of themselves preparation for students' future nursing careers. A new and validated definition of nursing study abroad preparation is presented, followed by an analytical framework that study abroad coordinators, HEIs and nursing students can utilise to guide preparation.


LEAR, H. 2019. Defining preparation and preparedness for nursing study abroad trips. Robert Gordon University [online], PhD thesis. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 27, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 27, 2020
Keywords Overseas students; Overseas nursing students; Nursing students; Studying abroad; Studying overseas
Public URL
Award Date Sep 30, 2019


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