Purpose: The purpose of this review is to explore current literature on cultural immersion experiences for nursing students.

Background: The population of the United States (U.S.) is becoming increasingly diverse. It is estimated that the number of minorities living in the U.S. will increase to 50% of the population by 2050. However, the nursing workforce is not representative of the general population, and many nurses report feeling unprepared to care for patients from different cultures. The need for cultural competency is apparent.

Methods: CINAHL and MEDLINE were searched for articles that address nursing student cultural immersion experiences. Inclusion criteria were publication between 2004 and 2019, available in English, and a focus on immersion experiences for undergraduate nursing students. Abstracts and articles were reviewed for content and relevancy and 35 articles met inclusion criteria for this review.

Results: Main themes for study findings were preparation, in-country experiences, and effects of cultural immersion experiences. Most cultural immersion programs offered classroom orientation content. Popular preparation topics included an introduction to religious customs, beliefs, food, and native language(s). In-country learning activities focused on healthcare-related hands-on involvement and recreational, cultural endeavors. Immersion experiences increased student empathy and allowed students to discover respect for differences in language and culture. Cultural immersion experiences continued to impact and affect nursing care years later.

Discussion: Cultural immersion experiences provide students an opportunity to learn about diverse cultures in a non-threatening environment. Nursing programs should require all students to have the advantage of participating in an immersive cultural experience.

Conclusion: Cultural competency and cultural sensitivity are vital elements of quality nursing care. Immersion experiences provide a superb opportunity for developing cultural competency.

Clinical Recommendations: Students need formal preparation about the country and culture they will be traveling to before the experience. Formal learning should take place two to three weeks before travel.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date








University Standing at Time of Publication

Graduate Student