268187 Short term study abroad experiences: Coping with cognitive dissonance

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 : 8:30 AM - 8:45 AM

Hendrika Maltby, PhD, RN , Department of Nursing, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Sarah E. Abrams, PhD, RN , Department of Nursing, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Background: Cultural immersion experiences during short-term study trips are intended to bring about greater cultural awareness and help students develop skills in cultural communication. Tools that measure cultural competency were not developed to measure what experiences contribute to students' response to cultural immersion or whether those experiences produce positive or negative effects. Method: Using reflective journals and summary papers written by senior nursing students who traveled to either Bangladesh or Uganda for a public health nursing course, we used narrative content analysis to identify which experiences led to cognitive dissonance. How students responded to the challenge of perceived negative situations for which they felt unprepared and perhaps powerless to alter was identified. Results: Journals reflected frustrations with (1) the attitudes and behaviors toward patients by nurses in clinical situations; (2) an apparent lack of attention to the safety of infants and small children by parents, (3) different perceptions of time and commitment to scheduled appointments, and (4) failure to remove or recycle refuse from communities or family home sites. Students engaged in reflective discussions but also used withdrawal, distraction, and blame depending on the situation and timing of the experience. Students reported discouragement and/or anger when they felt that they could not be effective change agents. Conclusions: Negative as well as positive transformative events occur during study abroad programs; both lead to learning. Further analysis may provide suggestions to enhance student empathy and skills to cope with dissonance; and help faculty provide realistic acknowledgement of limits of short-term cultural immersion.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Diversity and culture

Learning Objectives:
At the end of this presentation the learner will be able to 1. Describe experiences that cause cognitive dissonance among students participating in short term overseas public health nursing immersion courses as opportunities for mature insight. 2. Provide suggestions to assist students and faculty in coping with this dissonance.

Keywords: Cultural Competency, Education

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am co-PI on the study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.