The nature of learning to nurse through clinical practice experience for international culturally and linguistically different students in Sydney, Australia : an interpretive description

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Nursing in Australia is a practice based discipline that is governed and structured by national authorities that aim to maintain safe, effective and professional standards of care for the population. These standards reflect the notion of care, the role of the nurse, and the language of nursing as it is constructed in the Australian social culture. Undergraduate nursing courses are expected to prepare students to meet the professional and social expectations of the Australian nurse, so that they are prepared for graduate practice. These courses rely on the clinical practice learning experience to socialize students into the profession as well as integrate theory with practice. International culturally and linguistically different students (ICALD) who come to Australia to study nursing have been found to experience difficulty with learning to nurse in the clinical environment. Through the method of interpretive description, this study presents a comprehensive understanding of learning to nurse in the clinical environments of Sydney, Australia, for international students who come from countries where their language and culture is not western. The findings reveal the complexity of the nature of learning that often remains hidden to clinical educators and facilitators. ICALD students’ motivation to learn to nurse is underpinned by cultural pressure and personal circumstance that sustained them for the three years of the degree. The participants in this study came to Australia with very little knowledge of the culture or the population, armed with a learner level of English that was inadequate for full engagement in the clinical environment. Their ideas about nursing were constructed by their own experience and culture and therefore varied from the Australian ideal; therefore having ‘to do’ nursing as it is constructed here, often placed participants in moral peril and at risk of damaged reputations. The participants also felt that they were different to the Australian nurses they worked with, which affected their socialisation into the role. Despite these issues, the participants took ownership of their clinical learning experience and sought to become Australian nurses. The doctoral portfolio completing this thesis provides an examination of current and pertinent policy that influences the education of nurses and has informed the actions undertaken to address clinical learning issues. The ICALD student should be seen as a student of cultural literacy, for the wider Australian society and for the nursing profession, and the clinical learning environment as a space for language learning.
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