Irish nursing students' experiences of service learning

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Abstract

Service learning is a teaching tool that facilitates students' ability to link theory to practice while simultaneously providing a needed service to the community. This paper describes Irish nursing students' experiences of a service learning placement undertaken in a developing country. The students complete 30 h of theoretical content, which includes lectures and workshops on such topics as personal safety, health, and human rights, as well as the preparation of students for the emotional impact of the experience. All the content is underpinned by a commitment to developing reciprocal relationships with the service learning communities. To explore these students' experiences, a descriptive qualitative study was conducted. The data were collected using interviews and were analyzed by thematic analysis. Four main themes were identified: developing cultural sensitivity, caring for people in different cultures, learning/knowing more, and the potential impact on nursing practice. The findings suggest that the students are more culturally aware and are becoming more responsible citizens.

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