Problem: While literature reports broadly on the experiences of international students of health professions in higher education, the experience of students undertaking an undergraduate midwifery program outside their country of origin has not previously been reported.
Background: Midwifery studies incorporate distinct clinical practice and discipline-specific therapeutic relationships which can challenge students familiar with the health system, so it is necessary to understand their impact on the learning needs of international students, who contribute to the diversity of our workforce.
Aim: To explore learning experiences of international students of an undergraduate midwifery program to identify their perceptions and personal strategies which impacted their participation in the program.
Methods: A qualitative descriptive study, with a purposive sample of nine current international students and recent graduates of a midwifery program at a South Australian university. Participants attended a focus group or individual phone interview to explore their learning experiences, and data were thematically analysed.
Findings: Five themes and sub-themes were identified, built around a core concept of the international midwifery student experience as agency in change: language and culture, teaching and learning, isolation and integration, services and support, and motivation and resilience. Studying abroad was associated with personal and professional growth. Continuity of care for women presented challenges and produced learnings unique to this cohort.
Conclusion: Tailored support, such as specialized clinical facilitation and organized peer networking, is required for international midwifery students in Australia. Additionally, effective approaches to facilitate bilingualism to support language concordant care are needed.
- International students
- Learning experience
- Midwifery education