Background: International clinical placements are being increasingly offered to expose students to different health settings internationally. Both nationally and internationally there is a need to build the primary health care nursing workforce to meet changing community needs. Exposure to specialty areas during clinical placement can impact career choices.
Aim: This paper explores the experiences of Australian undergraduate nursing students undertaking a primary health care clinical placement in Cambodia.
Method: This exploratory qualitative study used semi-structured interviews to gather experiential narratives. Eight Australian undergraduate nursing students from a single University in New South Wales, Australia participated in the study. Verbatim transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Interview data revealed four themes, namely; Preparation for placement, Challenges, “The experience is so, so worth it” and PHC “it’s a lot more than words on a page now”. Despite pre-placement preparation, students were challenged during the placement in ways that they never expected. These challenges saw them grow both professionally and personally from the experience. Additionally, exposing students to primary health care in practice helped to demonstrate the value and importance of this area of nursing.
Conclusions: International clinical placement experiences present undergraduate nursing students with unique challenges and facilitate both professional and personal growth. Enhanced appreciation of primary health care among participants has potentially positive implications as they enter the nursing workforce. However, future studies need to investigate the longer term impact of international placement experiences within the broader undergraduate preparation of nurses and into their future careers.