The benefits of experiential learning during a service-learning engagement in child psychiatric nursing education

A C Jacobs


Background. Children, families and communities are affected by mental health challenges caused by high levels of violence and domestic upheaval in South African (SA) communities. There are too few specialised healthcare professionals, e.g. nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers, to meet the enormous mental healthcare needs of children and adolescents in the country. Because of the unique challenges people face in this context, professionals need to be trained in all aspects of child psychiatric nursing. One important way to provide this training could be a service-learning strategy. In this approach, nursing students are taught how to engage and educate communities by means of community-outreach programmes that form part of the curriculum. The purpose of this article is to report on nursing students’ experiences during their community-engagement outreach programmes in the challenging SA healthcare context.

Objectives. To explore and describe students’ community-based learning experiences during outreach programmes.

Method. A qualitative methodological approach used structured reflection reports of 47 students over 3 years as data. Participants’ responses were thematically analysed by content.

Results. Nursing students experienced community-learning engagement as thought provoking. They were able to practise their professional development within a collaborative environment, which built self-confidence and stimulated critical thinking. They indicated that the experience made them aware of the needs of the community and enabled them to share reciprocal knowledge. It helped them to integrate theory with practice, develop responsible citizenship and enhance professional development.

Conclusion. Evidence from a challenging context supports the use of service learning as an ideal approach to develop students’ professionalism, ethical responsibility and personal growth to become responsible citizens who can engage with mental health users in the community.

Author's affiliations

A C Jacobs, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Child psychiatric nursing education; Experiential learning process; Service-learning engagement

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2020;12(2):81-85. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2020.v12i2.1214

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-07-07
Date published: 2020-07-07

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