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Cultural encounters in reflective dialogue about nursing care: a qualitative study


M. Torsvik: e-mail:


Title. Cultural encounters in reflective dialogue about nursing care: a qualitative study.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore how students developed reflective nursing practice through cultural encounters between students from Tanzania and Norway.

Background.  Nursing students need to develop cultural care competence to care for patients in a globalized world. One way to achieve this goal may be through international practice experience. Previous studies have shown that students visiting developing countries matured personally and intellectually more than those who experienced encounters between developed countries.

Method.  The study was exploratory, using qualitative data about nursing practice and cultural encounters experienced by nursing students from Tanzania and Norway. Data were collected through participatory observation, students’ logs and focus group interviews in 2006.

Findings.  The encounter was characterized with an open attitude facilitating a good context for co-learning between the students. Three main themes were identified. The Norwegian students emphasized nurse–patient relationships, individualized care, direct communication and emotional involvement. The Tanzanian nursing students demonstrated a collectivist approach in nursing characterized by nurse–relative–patient relationships, and they emphasized curing attributes with skilful performance of procedures.

Conclusion.  A cultural encounter between students from different culture proved to be a fruitful way of teaching nurses. The opportunity to share thoughts, reflect on value systems and personal practice through dialogue with students from a different culture offer possibility in terms of cultural competence, reflexivity and consciousness of various ways practising nursing. This may contribute to bringing the practice of nursing a step forward in both cultures.