Nursing programs all over the world offer study abroad programs, but should you sign up for one? If you love traveling and learning about other cultures, studying abroad may sound like an exciting venture. But even if you aren’t ready to backpack across Asia, studying abroad may provide you with valuable experience you can use in the field.
Exposure to Different Cultures and Lifestyles
Studying abroad will expose you to different cultures and lifestyles. You’ll learn about different lifestyles, world views and belief systems.
Improved Cultural Awareness
Exposure to different lifestyles will improve your cultural awareness as a nurse, and this can greatly affect patient outcomes. Food preferences, language and cultural beliefs can all impact healthcare practices. Physical variations among different ethnic groups can also impact the effects of pharmaceuticals.
There is anecdotal evidence that nurses have missed information because they were unaware of cultural preferences. Lack of awareness can negatively impact the patient’s quality of care.
Nurses who travel abroad to non-English speaking countries experience a newfound appreciation for the confusion that non-native speakers feel at hospitals and clinics.
Cultural awareness can help nurses:
- Pick up on body language and customs that other nurses may misunderstand
- Recognize signs of other types of medical treatments, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Understand how cultural traditions impact dietary preferences
Experience with Different Supplies and Equipment
Studying abroad can also expose you to different equipment and supplies. Some countries don’t have advanced equipment, and medical supplies may be in short supply or different from what you’re used to using.
Having experience with a wide range of equipment and supplies will give you confidence when working in the field.
Improved Cultural Sensitivity
Many nurses say that they feel uncomfortable or inadequate in providing culturally appropriate or sensitive care to patients when their ethnicity is different from their own. Nursing care can become compromised when nurses don’t have training in treating patients from diverse cultures.
Cultural competence training is one way to solve the problem, but traveling and studying abroad can provide this experience organically and first-hand. Volunteering in developing countries can provide nurses with a wealth of experience, and the skills needed to overcome language and cultural barriers.
Better Understanding of Diseases and Health Conditions
While studying or volunteering abroad, nurses may be exposed to patients with diseases and health conditions not typically seen in their home countries.
Along with gaining knowledge of these diseases, nurses can learn how treatment works and also more about natural plant remedies that locals may use. All of this knowledge can be used to improve your cultural awareness.
A More Effective Nurse
Ultimately, studying abroad will make you a more effective nurse. The time spent overseas will improve your professional skills, cultural insights and communication strategies. You’ll be better equipped to serve your patients – no matter where in the world you practice.
It’s hard to find any disadvantages to studying abroad. All of the experiences, skills and knowledge gained can be used to make you a better nurse.