"Speak slowly I don't understand" : communication and cultural competence in the ERASMUS + experience in nurse education

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Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2019
Thesis identifier
  • T15448
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201268945
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Two of the main objectives of ERASMUS+ are to enable students to develop language skills and cultural competence (European Commission, 2014a). Sweeney (2010) recommends that the ERASMUS experience should take place in the language of the host country as the underpinning belief of the 1999 Bologna agreement is that learning in a foreign language can provide cultural enrichment. Despite this recommendation the majority of 3rd year nursing students from the Scottish university where part of this study took place, have an ERASMUS clinical experience and are unable to speak the language of the host country. The aim of this research was to explore how language constraints influence cultural competence and professional development in an ERASMUS placement for student nurses. A social constructivist, multiple case study was used to investigate each case individually and to illuminate the quintain (Stake, 2006). The quintain was students’ clinical placement within four countries (Finland, Sweden, Italy and Spain). The research methods used were one-to-one interviews with 12 mentors and 13 students and interval contingent diaries (Thomas, 2016) to capture students’ feelings about the challenges that they encountered in clinical practice and the perceived benefits of an ERASMUS placement on a day to day basis. NVivo 11 qualitative software was used for coding and thematic analysis. Results showed that students had an expectation that most of the hospital staff in host countries would speak English. The inability to speak the host language led to constraints in clinical practice. Students were unable to speak to patients, read patients’ notes and enter information in patient records. Consequently, mentors spent about 70 – 100 percentage of their time with students and acted as language and cultural brokers. Only with this kind of support were students able to have direct cultural encounters with patients. Despite the inability to speak the language, the findings indicated that the ERASMUS experience had personal and professional benefits for students. These benefits included a development of confidence in life and practice skills. In addition, critical thinking was developed through comparing the health care system and practices in the host country with the student’s own country. Although students did develop professional and cultural knowledge the acquisition of the host language prior to the ERASMUS experience would have increased student independence. Consequently, many students felt they performed as 2nd year instead of 3rd year students and would have had more autonomy in patient care management in their home country.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Theriault, Virginie
  • Wall, Kate
Resource Type