Background and Purpose.
International service-learning (ISL) is a strategy used by physical therapist (PT) educators to prepare students for rendering culturally competent care. The literature is replete with articles documenting the development and implementation of ISL programs and short-term benefits for student participants. Research is needed that includes evaluation of the long-term benefits and drawbacks of ISL for participants and the global partner. The purpose of this study was to modify an existing ISL educational model to include evaluation by 5 years of ISL program alumni and the global partner.
Method/Model Description and Evaluation.
Sixty-one PT ISL program alumni and 6 key global partner staff examined the long-term impact of an existing ISL model. The model incorporated an academic study on Ecuador, pediatric physical therapy, a 9-day ISL experience at 2 Ecuadorian orphanages, and multiple opportunities for reflection. Program alumni were queried about the long-term impact of the ISL experience via an online survey distributed using Facebook.TM One-on-one interviews were conducted with 6 global partner staff.
Online survey results supported ISL program influence on the alumni's desire to continue to develop cultural competence, provide pro bono physical therapy, and recognize the Core Values. Ninety percent of alumni ranked the ISL program in the top 10% of their college experiences. The global partner was satisfied with the partnership and asserted that pre-trip planning to address ISL site needs was a critical partnership element. Other desired elements included continuity of ISL team leadership, interaction with the local community, and inclusion of the global stakeholder in the partnership assessment process. Areas identified for development included better pre-trip communication, Spanish language competency, cultural competence, more time spent with the children, and feedback gathered from more ISL site staff.
Discussion and Conclusion.
ISL is an educational strategy with the potential to facilitate long-term cultural competence and professional development in PT students. Developing and maintaining a successful ISL program requires a wellstructured plan for intervention, excellent communication, reciprocal benefits, and continuity of team leadership. Models that include a systematic process to evaluate the long-term impact of ISL on alumni and include the perspective of the global stakeholder are critical for sustaining effective partnerships.