Benefits of Studying Abroad for Nurse Leaders

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Doctor of Nursing Practice

International education opportunities have a positive impact on nursing students.

Cultural competency in healthcare — loosely defined as providing care compatible with a patient’s values, beliefs and behaviors — has never been more important in the nursing profession. For nurse leaders who are positioned to influence changes in healthcare systems — including those earning their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree — one way to achieve cultural competency goals is through nursing study abroad programs that complement nurse education.

Census data shows that by 2044, demographics in the United States will have shifted dramatically — non-Hispanic white Americans will make up less than 50 percent of the population. As nurse leaders increasingly interact with patients from various backgrounds, they must adjust and adapt their practice to meet the changing demographics.

Studies show international education opportunities have had a positive impact on nursing students. In some cases, they have been life-changing, researchers said in a Journal of Nursing & Patient Care study.

“Exposure to global health experiences through study abroad has become an increasingly important means in providing such opportunities, as part of nursing curricula,” study authors said. “These study-abroad opportunities have been found to benefit nursing students in many ways by providing students with opportunities to acquire knowledge in a foreign country, thereby gaining diverse cultural perspectives, as well as global competence.”

Today, a growing number of nursing programs are offering transcultural experiences for all nursing students, including students enrolled in online DNP programs. For example, within its DNP curriculum, Duquesne University provides an opportunity for students to study abroad in Italy or Ireland to learn more about global healthcare perspectives.

Advantages to Nurses Study Abroad

Duquesne University nursing students who took part in overseas learning opportunities said the programs gave them a deeper understanding of other cultures, particularly in clinical settings. The Journal of Nursing & Patient Care said nurses could see several advantages to international study:

Cultural awareness

While meeting academic goals, international students are able to embrace the customs, history and traditions of their host countries. By being immersed in a host country’s culture and its political and economic systems, students are able to better appreciate the similarities and differences between the host and home countries.

Nursing students studying in developing countries also learn to appreciate the healthcare barriers faced by vulnerable populations and how international initiatives are working to improve social equality. They can experience firsthand the impact that non-governmental organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), have in developing countries.

Personal growth

Nursing study abroad gives students an opportunity to reflect on their experience with cultural stereotyping while gaining a better understanding of people of other cultures and ethnicities. Many nursing students also experience personal growth that contributes to self-confidence and a sense of autonomy.

Cultural immersion

Students who study abroad immerse themselves in all aspects of their host country, from learning a new language to experiencing new foods. Such immersion may be of assistance if the student wishes to return to the country to pursue a nursing career.

The immersive experience also provides opportunities to examine local determinates of health, including the impact of a region’s environment and dietary choices on wellness.

“Such exposure to variables, not found in the native country, provides occasions for students to gain cultural competence and to understand issues from varied perspectives,” said researchers in the Journal of Nursing & Patient Care.


While working closely and interacting with other nurses, faculty members, roommates and community leaders, nurses can build a cadre of international colleagues who may play a role in future endeavors.

Indeed, other research studies have also underscored the connection between international academic experiences and cultural competence in nursing. In the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, researchers said nursing students who participated in study-abroad programs experienced an increased appreciation and sensitivity to cross-cultural care, a better understanding of their own cultural identity and a stronger connection to global citizenship.

DNP-Prepared Nurses and Studying Abroad

For nurse leaders who interact with diverse patient populations, cultural competence is essential. In “The Culturally Competent Leader,” the authors said nurse leaders are responsible for implementing organizational cultural competency by developing objectives and goals for healthcare organizations, setting the tone for positive interactions and coordinating strategic outreach plans.

The curriculum in Duquesne University’s online DNP program provides opportunities for nurse leaders to engage in experiences that will broaden their understanding of cultural differences. DNP students enrolled in the university’s Transcultural Care and Global Health Perspectives course explore and analyze the impact of transcultural nursing on a rapidly changing society. Students also have an opportunity to take part in a transcultural nursing experience at one of the university’s international campus locations: St. Michael’s House in Dublin or Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Rome.

About Duquesne University’s Online DNP Program

Duquesne University’s online DNP program prepares nurses to lead cultural competency efforts in healthcare institutions across the United States. Through the DNP program, students learn how culture, ethnicity and values can impact patient care. In addition, students gain the confidence and know-how to become healthcare leaders.

Duquesne University has been repeatedly recognized as a leader in nursing education, most recently among the “Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs” by U.S. News & World Report. The university’s online DNP program provides one-on-one faculty mentorships and a 100 percent online curriculum. For more information, contact Duquesne University now.




Becoming a Culturally Competent Health Care Organization: AHA

Census data: Census

Diversity: Data USA

Benefits of Study Abroad in Nursing: Journal of Nursing & Patient Care

Learning That Goes Beyond The Classroom: Duquesne University School of Nursing Magazine

Evaluation of an international nursing student exchange: Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

Cultural competency for leaders: The Culturally Competent Leader