Transforming Experiences: a Reflective Topical Autobiography of Facilitating Student Nurse Development Through International Immersion Programmes
The focus of this study is the impact of an international education programme on baccalaureate nursing students taken by me, their teacher/professor, to become immersed in another culture. This is an unusual undertaking for a nursing education programme but it is one to which I have been passionately committed for more than 20 years. This study examines my life-work in a deeply reflective and narrative way. I have used many sources of data to assist in the creation of my story including the framework of Moustakas (1990) and Reflective Topical Autobiography as described by Johnstone (1999). My story is woven throughout this thesis as I gradually reveal more of myself as I feel that who I am should be a continuous thread that lends credence to multiple sections of this work. Several of my reflective stories about the immersion programme experiences, called here, vignettes are included, so that my reflections, thoughts, and feelings can be expressed. “I didn’t have to create the world I wrote about it. I realized that words could tell. [sic] That there was such a thing as an emotional sentence” (Lorde, 1984, p. 85). The genesis of the emotional sentence emerged through the use of interviews with student participants and my own introspective process. In this way I came to a new understanding of myself and my passion for this way of working.
I found that these educational experiences had the ability to change the personal and professional lives of participants. Students’ world views expanded exponentially as the true-life experiences in which they actively participated nurtured a profound metamorphosis. It is important to recognise the critical social nature of this work. I have carefully considered the issues of class and gender, poverty and powerlessness, and the inherent dialectic as key elements in the reflective process. The awareness of these social issues coupled with profound personal changes that occurred when immersed in another culture frame the contribution of this work to the profession of nursing in general and to midwifery specifically. In addition, I have been changed. My “way of being” has become radically different. I realise that I facilitate life transformation for participants by providing the platform; I realise the connection, potency, and power of student-teacher relationships; and most of all I learned that I teach from the heart.