The Virtual International Elective (VIE) aims to mirror the outcomes of students taking an international elective in person. This includes developing students’ global mindset and cultural competency by creating a sense of ‘being there’. In an increasingly multi-cultural society these qualities are essential to promoting excellence in nursing and a cornerstone of King’s approach to internationalisation.
The use of technology has been in the spotlight during the pandemic. The Student Nursing Times Teaching Innovation Award looks for novel approaches to nursing education that are workable, successful, and potentially sustainable. The outstanding evaluations from the VIE and the additional benefits it offers for widening participation has led to its inclusion in King’s pre-registration nursing curriculum for 2021-22 and possibly beyond.
This virtual adventure has been fast, action-packed and fun, generating a warm and lively atmosphere of camaraderie...We would never have been able to afford to travel to travel to 20 different countries or gain all the knowledge we have gained in the last four weeks.
– Students' feedback
The project was created and led by Jacqui Boulton, a Lecturer in Adult Nursing and Faculty Lead for student mobility, electives, and global health. Jacqui, a team of King's educators, and colleagues at collaborating institutions from across the six World Health Organisation (WHO) regions of the globe delivered a packed virtual elective programme over four weeks to second year pre-registration nursing students. This equated to 150 clinical hours that they would have gained on a normal elective.
Travelling virtually across the world, Jacqui and her students spent a few days visiting countries in each region to consider the challenges and triumphs of nursing. It was important that students were well prepared before a professional visit to a specific country, as it would be for an actual elective. To achieve this, students completed ‘know before you go’ activities in a specially created travel log (equivalent to the practice learning document they use for their placements). For each country they visited, students reviewed and understood the specific health risks, carrying out research on basic demographics and health challenges.
I have gained an awareness of cultural influences that can only help me to empathise in a different way than before...Going forward I will be much more aware of the cultural experiences of the people I treat and how this will direct care.– Students' feedback
They had to plan what to pack for their trip and make comparisons between the virtual and actual environment. Regular communications about their journey helped create a spirit of camaraderie and preparedness:
‘Last week involved a lot of travelling and was very intense. We visited seven countries and two WHO Regions! I expect it left you somewhat jet lagged, and I hope you have recovered a little over the weekend! Please take time to replenish your suitcase if needed ensuring you continue to have plentiful supplies of enthusiasm, an enquiring mind and a flexible mindset.’
Activities in different countries included synchronous (live) discussions with students and staff in international nursing faculties, presentations and Q&A’s from nurses who had responded to specific challenges ‘in the field’ (including King’s alumni) and showcasing of our Faculty’s many international research collaborations and other partnerships. There were also small group book and film clubs which helped to create that sense of ‘being there’. Students used Padlet – an online educational tool that allows people to share information in a single place online – to discuss and reflect in a collaborative way.
I’m so pleased for everyone who was involved in this project that is has been shortlisted. Over the past two years, the pandemic has denied students the opportunity to undertake the electives they had so looked forward to. I and my colleagues are passionate about the opportunities and insights and contribution to Nursing Education that these opportunities afford and desperately sorry this had happened to them. Yet ‘necessity is the mother of invention. I was bowled over by both response from colleagues wanting to be involved, here at King’s and across our international networks, and by the reception our virtual international elective got from our students. The VIE has proved to be an unforgettable experience for many students and a highlight of their King's journey to becoming a qualified nurse. In the words of one student ‘We may have reached the end of the trip, but this is just the start of our cultural exploration in a journey that will last a lifetime’. – Jacqui Boulton, Faculty Lead for student mobility, electives, and global health
The winners of the Student Nursing Times Awards will be announced at a ceremony on 4 November.
If you would like to know more, Jacqui presented this initiative earlier this year at the Kings Teaching & Learning Conference. This session was recorded and will be available soon as a King’s Education (KED) Talk.