Study tours can be undertaken to investigate and learn about areas of specific interest. Many countries share similar healthcare service problems and there are numerous benefits to networking and collaborating with others. Study tours have traditionally been the domain of academic staff members, but clinical staff members are also recognizing the potential benefits of undertaking a study tour abroad.
Embarking on a study tour is not simply a matter of asking your boss for permission. You will be responsible for finding funding, preparing an application, consolidating new contacts and research opportunities, and providing a post-tour report to maximize the potential benefits of participating in a study tour. Using the acronym STUDY TOURS, we outline some of the key issues to be aware of before embarking on a study tour and provide tips for getting the most out of your tour.
Study. Study tours can provide wonderful opportunities to establish valuable collegial contacts, increase understanding and awareness of other health initiatives, obtain encouraging feedback about your work, and promote the sharing of information, resources, and ideas. International partnerships can help develop clinical practices and educational and research programs, while fostering cultural awareness (Anders, 2001; Goldberg & Brancato, 1998).
Moreover, increased cultural awareness leads to a better understanding and appreciation of multi-cultural issues when caring for patients at home. Throughout the study tour, it is important that healthcare staffs have opportunities to discuss, debate, and share their experiences to advance education, research, and practice (Ford, 2005).
Training. Do your homework about the places and people you will visit before you leave. Search the Internet and relevant databases (e.g., MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO) for information about the people and their institution or read one or two key articles they have written. Once there, time is precious and should not be wasted on tasks and activities that could have been done at home. Your hosts will respect the fact that you have come prepared. They may also feel honored and flattered by your efforts—which never goes astray.
Do some homework about your own country. You will be asked lots of questions (e.g., population, geographic size, etc.), which can be awkward if you don’t know the answers. Top marks are awarded if you can frame your answer according to the characteristics of the place you are visiting (e.g., “My country has half the population of yours” or “My state is about the same size as yours”).
Undergraduates. Request that you have an opportunity to meet students from relevant disciplines and that some be invited to your presentations. This will be important for their education and will also make you aware of their training programs and the various issues with which they are confronted. The students may also be inspired to visit your institution and country. That said, study tours can be conducted without arranged presentations or any planned collaborative research, but simply to gain valuable knowledge to assist in everyday workplace situations.
Destination. Decide on your destination and ensure sites have adequate notice to prepare for your trip—most people are busy and require time to organize tours, let alone additional trips you may wish to undertake when there. Don’t cram your itinerary—make sure you schedule in enough breaks!
You cannot expect to do everything, so be clear in your own mind, for the benefit of your hosts and yourself, about your priorities. To this end, formulate comprehensive objectives that maximize the benefits of your trip. This will also help when writing your final report.
You. You are an ambassador for your institution and your country. Have fun, but don’t embarrass yourself. Be respectful and discreet during all interactions and always adhere to professional standards. If you intend to make comparisons between sites in reports or subsequent research, ensure appropriate approval has been obtained by the agency that you are visiting and that parameters are clearly articulated. A study tour is different from a review or audit unless otherwise negotiated.
Touring. Be proactive—indicate what you want to do and see. At the same time, ask your hosts what else they would suggest you do while there. Ensure that you allow some time to do some sightseeing and have some exposure to the local culture.
Others. Try to decide which people you would like to collaborate with and do joint projects with in future. Collaborative, multisite projects of mutual interest and significance stand a better chance of publication in international journals with high impact. Network actively and be sure to carry sufficient business cards and swap e-mail addresses.
Uplifting. As much as possible, your presentations should be uplifting and aim to inspire your hosts and audiences. You should give your presentations your best shot but, having said that, you may choose to leave just a little something in reserve so you will be invited back. Don’t forget to do presentations in your own work setting and share your valuable experience and knowledge.
Reciprocate. Ascertain which people you meet would be good to invite to your own institution. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement and camaraderie of the study tour, so ensure that whatever is promised can be delivered.
Say thanks. Once home, don’t forget to thank your hosts more formally. As you settle into your old routine, maintain the new contacts, but be sure to get the balance right between time and energy devoted to these and to your preexisting assignments and colleagues.
This practical information about study tours is designed to help you derive maximum benefit from them. Study tours can enable you to establish collegial contacts and a range of practice, education, and research collaborations.
Always remember that you are an ambassador for your institution and professional standards must be maintained throughout the tour. Study tours require careful preparation and planning, and comprehensive objectives.
Successful study tours can provide a range of career development opportunities and be professionally rewarding and inspiring. Bon voyage!
Michelle L. Cleary, BHlthSc(Nurs),
Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery,
University of Sydney
Sydney South West Area Mental
Garry Walter, MBBS, BMedSc, PhD
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
University of Sydney
North Sydney Central Coast Health
- Anders, R. L. (2001). Quick reads trekking in Thailand: A nursing study abroad opportunity. Nursing & Health Care Perspectives, 22(3), 118–121.
- Ford, L. C. (2005). The future is local and global. Nursing & Health Sciences, 7(3), 148–149. doi:10.1111/j.1442-2018.2005.00239.x [CrossRef]
- Goldberg, L. K. & Brancato, V. C. (1998). International education: A United Kingdom nursing student partnership. Nurse Educator, 23(5), 30–34. doi:10.1097/00006223-199809000-00014 [CrossRef]