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UBC Theses and Dissertations

International practicums and nursing students' understanding of culture : an interpretive description Laidlaw, Nicola Ann


Canadian nurses and nursing students are required daily to interact with and care for individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds in a manner that assures high quality, respectful care. While international practicums are being employed by some nursing schools to prepare nursing students for this challenge, there is a scarcity of literature examining the success of such programs. This qualitative study explores nursing students' accounts of culture before, during, and after an international practicum, to explore how the notion of 'culture' is developed in nursing students taking part in an international practicum. This study was designed using a critical cultural framework, the premise of which is that we see individuals not as simply belonging to a particular cultural group, a cultural “other”, but that they be recognized as residing within a unique historical, social, economic and political context that is unlikely to be identical to that of any other member of their cultural group. The research was conducted using interpretive description as the research methodology. Purposive criterion sampling was employed to select participants. This research emphasized the complexity of the notion of culture. It has been suggested that these practicums can be problematic in terms of the cultural understanding they instill in students, perhaps even reinforcing the essentialist notions of culture that we are attempting to replace. The importance of self-reflection to reveal personal biases, values and assumptions, as well as the recognition of the sociopolitical influences on the lives of individuals emerged as key factors in facilitating a critical cultural understanding of culture. This research highlighted the need that nurse educators be supported in their own journey toward an understanding of the concepts of `culture` and `cultural safety`. The findings of this research support the idea that nursing students, for the most part, retain their essentialist views of culture, even during and after participation in an international practicum. It emphasizes the need to rethink how nursing students are prepared pre-departure to approach their practicum with a critical cultural eye, and the importance of daily reflection and guided discussions during the practicum.

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