International Healthcare Experiences: Caring While Learning and Learning While Caring

International Healthcare Experiences: Caring While Learning and Learning While Caring

Jon P. Wietholter (West Virginia University, USA), Renier Coetzee (University of the Western Cape, South Africa), Beth Nardella (West Virginia University, USA), Scott E. Kincaid (University of Kentucky Healthcare, USA) and Douglas Slain (West Virginia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0169-5.ch019
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International Healthcare Experiences (IHEs) provide opportunities for students to experience healthcare in unfamiliar and sometimes challenging settings. Types of IHEs include acute care, ambulatory care, and medical missions. Students have reported multiple benefits through completion of IHEs including increased personal and professional development, increased cultural sensitivity, and increased self-awareness and self-confidence. While many benefits have been noted, there are also challenges in developing, implementing, and sustaining IHEs including financial considerations, safety concerns, and apprehensions regarding the impact the IHE is having on foreign patients and healthcare workers. Additionally, the possibility of limited sustainability of an IHE must be taken into account when evaluating its development and overall impact. This chapter's aim is to summarize the currently available literature on IHEs and to provide subjective reflections from international colleagues and students associated with IHEs connected to the authors' institutions.
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Interest in global health among health professions students has increased considerably over the past two decades. It was relatively rare for United States (US) students to study overseas until the 1960s (Bruno & Imperato, 2015). The explosion of new technology and travel modalities over the last few decades, however, has made it considerably easier to communicate and interact with people in places that were previously unreachable. Fortunately, there are growing opportunities for students in the health professions to study or train abroad. This chapter focuses on International Healthcare Experiences (IHEs) for such students from a US perspective due to the authors’ involvement with multiple US-based healthcare programs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Acute Care IHEs: Experiences that are completed primarily within a hospital setting. These programs range in duration and participants will often participate in hands-on care under the guidance of preceptors.

Ambulatory Care IHEs: Experiences that are completed in clinics or community health settings. These programs consist primarily of shadowing opportunities or observerships under the direction of preceptors.

Culture Shock: An uncomfortable feeling experienced by travelers to new countries whose culture, customs, and landscape are totally foreign from their own that usually passes after a few days. If left unchecked, severe culture shock may turn into depression. Upon returning home from an intense immersion, some travelers also suffer reverse culture shock as they feel no one can understand or relate to what they have just experienced.

Humanitarian Aid: The provision of assistance to a person or persons in order to improve health or situation to a level conducive for life.

Service-Learning: A type of pedagogy that incorporates community service with instruction. This teaching approach fosters learning through critical reflection and meaningful engagement with communities.

Medical Mission IHEs: Experiences completed in a foreign location by a group of medical professionals to provide medical care to individuals of an indigent population.

Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs): Concentrated hands-on active learning opportunities where students are supervised by practicing pharmacists.

Third-Party Providers: Organizations who facilitate international programs for universities and groups. A third-party provider has contacts and staff in other locations that make housing and meal accommodations, liaise between clinical/service sites, and handle recreational activities and excursions for travelling students. In clinical programs they can establish relationships with local interpreters and preceptors.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): Typically non-profit groups dedicated to specific issues. While many are community-based, national and international NGOs are common. NGOs serve many purposes from empowering those in need to providing service.

Preceptor: A fully trained licensed practitioner within their discipline (e.g., medicine, nursing, pharmacy etc.), that serves as a student mentor and whom evaluates students’ competency on certain clinical aspects while training with them.

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