PURPOSE: Although international service learning has the capacity to promote a variety of important professional behaviors, merely visiting another country does not automatically result in these benefits. METHODS: This article describes an evidenced-based course which used pre-trip preparation in combination with a nine day service learning trip to Ecuador to develop cultural competence among 6 occupational and 6 physical therapy students. Pre-trip preparation included online and in-person components to increase self-awareness, awareness of other cultures, knowledge about Ecuadorian culture and skill-building. On-site activities included exploration of the physical and social context in addition to providing occupational and physical therapy treatment in a variety of settings. The authors collected qualitative information by reviewing responses to prompts on an online forum. A pre-test/post-test format using the Inventory for Assessing the Process of Cultural Competence Among Healthcare Professionals-Student Version (IAPCC-SV) was used to gather quantitative information. RESULTS: A paired-samples t-test was used to compare the group’s pre-test and post-test scores on the IAPCC-SV. There was a statistically significant difference in the scores between the pre-test (M=57.72, SD+ 6.66) and post-test (M=67.54, SD+ 3.55) with the change in mean score of 9.81 resulting in t= -491, df = 10 and p ≤.001. DISCUSSION: The results showed a change in students from the level of culturally aware to culturally competent based on the scale provided in IAPCC-SV. The experience resulted in an increased desire to continue intercultural practice. Health care professionals have a responsibility to be culturally competent. This article will assist health care professionals to reflect on the advantages of joining an international service learning trip to expand their self-awareness and awareness of other cultures. Professors may reflect on how pre-trip preparation may enhance existing service learning experiences.

Author Bio(s)

Elaine Keane, OTD, OTR/L is the director of the Centro de Rehabilitación, Educación, Capacitación, Estudios y Recursos (CRECER), a non-profit organization which provides free rehabilitation services to clients in Ibarra, Ecuador. In the past 5 years she has guided service learning experiences to Ecuador for approximately 150 students.

Ingrid Provident Ed.D OTR/L FAOTA serves as Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Post Professional online OTD program at Chatham University. Research interests include innovative education practices including global experiences which promote students’ ability to construct their knowledge through active occupational therapy fieldwork.



fig1rev.jpg (24 kB)
Figure 1

Figure 2.JPG (16 kB)
Table 2

fig3rev.png (14 kB)
Figure 2


Submission Location


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.