The impact of learning abroad programs in developing countries: a scoping review

Bronwyn Kosman, Naroa Etxebarria, Lucy Chipchase

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


An increasing number of higher education healthcare students from developed countries are undertaking short-term learning abroad programs in developing countries. However, sociocultural differences between the students and the communities could lead to unintended, possibly negative consequences for the community. The objective of this review was to explore what is known about the impact of learning abroad programs undertaken by healthcare students on the communities in the developing countries who host them.

The six-step scoping review developed by Arksey and O'Malley (2005) provided a methodological framework for searching the literature and identifying records meeting the inclusion criteria.

Data sources
A comprehensive range of databases were used to facilitate the literature search (including CINHAHL, EBSCO, ERIC, Google Scholar, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Scopus and Web of Science).

Review methods
A two-stage review process was undertaken. Stage 1 reviewed articles on learning abroad undertaken in developing countries by higher education healthcare students. Stage 2 identified articles that reported the impact on the host community. Articles meeting the stage 2 criteria were further assessed for methodological quality using the Critical Review Form for Qualitative Studies.

The stage 2 review revealed less than one quarter of the included articles (n = 36) reported on the impact of the learning abroad program on the host community and across these eight articles, there was a significant diversity in the methodological rigour and outcomes presented.

This review identified that most of the published research on learning abroad in developing countries focusses almost exclusively on the impact the programs have on the students, with a paucity of research considering how they impact host communities. Our findings suggest the need to further extend and strengthen the research on the host communities in order to understand the impact higher education healthcare students have on the international communities who host them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104716
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalNurse Education Today
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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