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Unpacking the hidden curriculum in nursing education: clinical placements abroad

Oona St-Amant ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Nisha Sutherland


Many Canadian nursing programs endorse clinical placements abroad. We critically examined the hidden curriculum embedded in clinical placements seeking to provide a ‘global’ experience. Using purposeful sampling, we interviewed a total of 18 participants, including eight faculty, eight students and two placement coordinators. Data were analyzed using initial and focused coding, supported by NVivo. After generating themes from the coded data, we adapted Hafferty’s (1998) framework to further analyze the theme of the hidden curriculum. The findings illuminate how policies sustained international experience as a privileged endeavour, with restricted access based on grades. Placements incorporated little evaluation of benefits for local communities. Few resources were allocated to students for such placements, as many students paid for their placement. The institutional terms ‘international and global experience’ denoted interactions with cultural “Others”. We recommend that nursing programs attend to hidden practices that sustain clinical placements abroad as prestigious, commodified experiences.

Corresponding author: Oona St-Amant, RN, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ryerson University, 288 Church Street, Toronto, Ontario, DCC575D, Canada, Phone: 416-979-5000 ext 557986, E-mail:

Award Identifier / Grant number: 430-2016-01082

  1. Research funding: SSHRC (430-2016-01082).

  2. Author contributions: All authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this manuscript and approved its submission.

  3. Competing interests: Authors state no conflict of interest.

  4. Informed consent: Informed consent was obtained from all individuals included in this study.


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Received: 2019-12-11
Accepted: 2020-07-14
Published Online: 2020-08-10

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