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Int J Nurs Stud. 2008 Aug;45(8):1214-32. Epub 2007 Aug 13.

Transforming students' views of gerontological nursing: realising the potential of 'enriched' environments of learning and care: a multi-method longitudinal study.

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Glasgow Caledonian University, UK.



Gerontological nursing is often viewed as unchallenging and is rarely a positive career choice for student nurses. Issues of recruitment and retention in gerontological nursing are a global phenomenon and strategies are needed to encourage more students to opt for this area of work.


To identify the role and influence of students' learning experiences on shaping their predispositions to work with older people and to identify the characteristics of a positive learning environment that might promote a more favourable view of gerontological nursing.


The study was a 312-year longitudinal investigation using multiple methods of data collection and analysis, including an extensive review of the literature, large-scale postal surveys, focus groups and case studies of clinical placements. The design of the study was emergent and essentially constructivist, and participants, especially student nurses, were actively engaged in the on-going process of data analysis.


The results suggest that students do not necessarily enter nurse training with negative predispositions towards work with older adults, but that such negative views develop during their training largely as a result of clinical placements and extra-curricula paid work. Student nurses are often exposed to 'impoverished' environments of care in which they witness poor standards of care and negative attitudes towards older people. However, if they experienced 'enriched' environments they are far more likely to view gerontological nursing in a favourable light. The characteristics of an enriched environment can be understood using the Senses Framework as an analytic lens to interpret students' learning experiences.


The study reinforces the vital role that the placement experience plays in helping students to identify with a particular area of practice. The promotion of an 'enriched' environment of learning and care can be used to help ensure that students have a positive experience of learning to care for older people.

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