Healthcare professions are ever challenged to meet the demands of a global aging society. Educators across the helping professions continuously explore ways to motivate students’ interest in caring for older adults. Given new undergraduate nursing curriculum changes, increased demand for creative outpatient educational opportunities for clinical gerontological experiences has put tremendous urgency on all healthcare stakeholders.
To analyze students’ perceptions of clinical experiences at the Robust Aging Program clinic, a community wellness outpatient senior center.
Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews, exploring students’ perspectives on whether they would consider gerontology/geriatrics-related careers.
University extension senior clinic, serving Osher Lifelong Learning Center members who attend the Robust Aging Program, a School of Nursing community service.
IRB-approved semi-structured interviews were conducted by phone and Zoom within a year of clinic experience. Preset questions centered on students’ clinic experiences. Trained research assistants working under the guidance of a qualitative researcher collected and analyzed and categorized common and emergent themes.
13 undergraduate nursing students who volunteered in the clinic in current or previous semesters. Students were about to graduate or new alumni; working nurses came from different specialties, including pediatrics.
Clinical immersion in a nurse-led senior wellness clinic that entailed close interactions with robustly aging adults increased students’ knowledge and skills and their willingness to work with the aged. Mentorship was noted as a key emergent theme.
Exposure to community outpatient clinical experiences can spark interest in working with older adults. This is especially true of advanced practice nurse-led wellness clinics where students receive mentorship and are empowered to exercise holistic care. Further research is needed to determine educators’, clinicians’, and administrators’ roles in sustaining students’ interest in gerontology-related careers.