Original Study| Volume 11, ISSUE 7, P506-510, September 2010

Reflections of Medical Students Regarding the Care of Geriatric Patients in the Continuing Care Retirement Community


      There is growing recognition that students training to provide care for older adults need to be trained in all settings where older adults receive care, including retirement communities. The purpose of this study was to allow medical students to see older patients living and participating in activities in the long-term care setting and examine the effects that this experience had on the students.


      Medical students were assigned to write an open-ended reflection paper about a community health experience. Forty-eight students wrote their reflection papers on their experience in a continuing care retirement facility. Three independent reviewers examined these reflective narratives for common themes.


      After analyzing the students' narratives, 6 themes emerged: (1) The initial exposure to dementia, (2) confronting death and dying, (3) the diversity of care and services for the elderly, (4) the cost of care for the elderly, (5) seniors can lead active lives if given the opportunity, and (6) the rewards of the health care team-patient relationship.


      The students' reflective narratives provide valuable insights into how medical students view retirement communities, the physician's role in the care of geriatric patients, the importance of interdisciplinary health care, the cost of care for elderly patients, and their views on dementia and dying. Through this experience, students received valuable lessons about taking care of older adults in the community that their interactions with patients in the hospital and ambulatory medical offices had not provided.


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      1. AAMC: Statement of Patients in Peril: Critical Shortages in Geriatric Care. Available at Accessed on July 19, 2005.

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